Health dept., STAND releases Gallia smoking stats

By Dean Wright -

GALLIA COUNTY — At a recent Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery meeting, a Gallia Health Department and STAND representative released Gallia statistics for the availability and accessibility of tobacco to youth in the area.

STAND is an acronym for Stand Up Speak Out Against Tobacco. The group is backed by the Gallia Health Department’s Tobacco Use and Cessation program and is compromised of young adults from both Gallia Academy High School and River Valley High School. The group’s efforts have focused in counter marketing against tobacco use and sales through creating area commercials, social media ads and digital billboards. It has also assisted in efforts to work towards helping HUD housing transition into tobacco-free conditions and making Rio Grande Memorial Park smoke free.

Youth reportedly finished 27 store audits throughout the county to determine how the tobacco retail environment may impact tobacco use in minors. According to provided information, 13.2 percent of tobacco retail locations exist near schools, 63.2 percent exist near other retailers and 7.9 percent exist near pharmacies.

The report said that the top five counties for highest price of cigarettes in Ohio were ranked from greatest to smallest with Cuyahoga County leading, Hamilton County, Lake County, Franklin County and Geauga County. The cheapest pack of cigarettes in Ohio are ranked from greatest to least with Lucas County leading, Gallia in second, Montgomery in third, Harrison in fourth and Perry County last. There are 38 tobacco retailers in Gallia.

All retailers had ads for tobacco, with 80 percent having ads for e-cigarettes. Around 46 percent of retailers had outdoor advertisements and 16.7 percent had advertisements within three feet of the floor.

STAND members reported, in their experience, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco were the most common products used among youth. Critics of e-cigarettes have pointed to the variety of offered flavors as being tempting to start youth consumption of nicotine. The 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey states that roughly 8.3 percent of high school boys and 5.8 of all high school students made current use of smokeless tobacco. The STAND and health department report claims the U.S. Surgeon General in 2016 said e-cigarette use was a “major public health concern” for youth.

E-cigarettes reportedly carry “ultrafine particles” the report said, which could be inhaled, flavorants like diacetyl which were linked to lung disease and heavy metals.

STAND would like to promote the prohibition of flavored non-cigarette tobacco products, ban or prohibit e-cigarette sales near youth locales and specific retailers, establish a tax on e-cigarettes and require licensing for their distribution. Nicotine and smoking use have been linked to cancer and heart disease says the U.S. Surgeon General.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright