Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in the United States. Research also shows greater numbers of tobacco retailers, tobacco advertising, and cheaper prices for menthol cigarettes exist in areas with larger black, Hispanic, and low-income populations–similar to the make-up of many Camden neighborhoods.
However, there is good news when it comes to addressing tobacco where we live, learn, work and play.
On November 1, 2017, New Jersey became the third state, behind Hawaii and California, to raise its smoking age from 19 to 21. The New Jersey law applies to both e-cigarettes and conventional tobacco products, and triggers fines against anyone who sells or offers such products to individuals under 21.
In anticipation of this new law and the launch of the statewide Stop Tobacco Offenses Merchant Program (STOMP) tobacco campaign by the Coalition for a Healthy NJ and the New Jersey Prevention Network, Get Healthy Camden partnered with Tobacco Free South Jersey, the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services, The Food Trust, and Lourdes Health System to conduct tobacco audits of a sampling of stores in the City of Camden.
Our tobacco audits included an initial sample of 109 corner stores, 50 of which were part of The Food Trust’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative. The audits assessed:
We also informed store owners/merchants about the new law, and found that many merchants were unaware of the change in policy.
With our community and regional partners, we also piloted a training module to recruit and teach Camden residents to perform tobacco audits and become Tobacco 21 advocates.
A meaningful partnership has since evolved out of this effort, and the Get Healthy Camden coalition and its partners plan to continue working together to advocate for the reduction of tobacco use in Camden. We also intend to continue collaborating on strategies that raise awareness in the community about the negative impact of secondhand smoke.
Our next step is to fully implement the Tobacco 21 training module and recruit Camden residents to help audit all stores that sell tobacco products. Connect with us to access the findings of our sample tobacco audit, get information about upcoming Tobacco 21 trainings, and learn more about how Get Healthy Camden is working to build a healthier community.