Riverside County youth targeted by unhealthy store ads

Teens in Riverside County targeted by unhealthy tobacco and alcohol ads

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Health officials say young people in Riverside County are being targeted by unhealthy ads, including cotton candy vodka, raspberry or apple flavored cigar wraps.

To kick off a statewide initiative called Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, Riverside County Dept. of Public Health officials and local students joined forces at the American Cancer Society's Riverside office Wednesday to present just how prevalent tobacco, alcohol and junk food ads and products are in our local markets and convenience stores.

"Tobacco companies are stronger than ever , they spend billions to try to addict the next generation," said VJ Sleight of the Riverside County Tobacco Coalition.

Students helped survey 270 stores. They discovered nearly 80 percent of stores have unhealthy food, drink and tobacco advertisements plastered on their windows.

More than 75 percent sell alcohol, but only 35 percent carry low or non-fat milk.

"There was no fresh food in most of the places and when there was it was nasty. It wasn't ripe at all and limited choices," said youth data collector Kori Lemoine, 17.

More than 60 percent of stores sell electronic cigarettes. Statewide, the number of stores selling e-cigarettes has quadrupled in the past two years.

"I work with the Coachella Valley Unified School District. Children as young as in the sixth grade are already noticing electronic cigarettes and are enticed by them," said Sleight.

The county hopes the data will educate communities, help create healthier options and policies for change.

"By having this data it really helps us figure out where to focus our energy. Now we know there's no fresh food and all of these advertisements, we can focus on trying to get it better in these environments," said Lemoine.

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