Report: Tobacco Marketing Concentrated In Poorest Albany Neighborhoods

Feb 17, 2017

During the Grammys on Sunday, non-profit public health organization Truth Initiative launched a national campaign called #StopProfiling, calling attention to ways in which tobacco marketing is disproportionately targeted to African Americans and low-income neighborhoods. That's exactly the focus of a new paper exposing the disproportionate presence of tobacco marketing in low-income Albany neighborhoods and the health inequities that result. 

Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities is out with a report highlighting striking disparities in tobacco use and marketing in low-income neighborhoods in Albany. The report summarizes the findings from community conversations held in November 2016 with Arbor Hill, South End, West Hill and downtown residents.

CDTFC's Community Engagement Coordinator Theresa Zubretsky says zip codes were key to unlocking the possible solutions to the disproportionate impact of tobacco on these communities.  "There was a cluster of tobacco outlets in several zip codes in the city of Albany which turned out to be zip codes with the highest poverty rates of all the zip codes in Albany County. What we discovered when we looked a little bit deeper than that was that there were some 338 retailers in all of Albany County, but fully a third of them, 111 of them, were located in four zip codes, 12202, 06, 07 and 10, that have some of the highest rates of poverty, and where only 12 percent of the county population lived."

Zubretsky notes advertising for tobacco products is carefully placed in stores, which offer them at state minimum prices, which can lead to a lifetime habit with consequences to the users' health.  "There was a plethora of cigars, cigarillos and flavored tobacco products that were sold in either singles, or two for a pack, at times as low as 50 cents or a $1.50 for that price point. And we know that among African American high school students, they smoke cigars at twice the rate that they smoke cigarettes."

82 percent of those who participated in the CDTFC meetings say they support limiting the number of tobacco retailers in a specific geographic area and within a certain distance of schools.

Albany resident Mary Ann Hines was involved in the neighborhood conversations and champions the idea of restricting the sale of tobacco products.   "If we got together, did some petitions, and went up to the legislature, talk with them and let them know, this is what we found, this is the statistics. It's not healthy for our community, it's killing our youth and our parents, There's more cancer of various types in low-income areas, and the majority of them can be found and can be said that it's from the addiction and smoking of tobacco."

The report has reached the desk of Albany First Ward Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs, who is concerned smoking puts at increased risk for poor health. She intends to use the report as a tool to effect change.  "And it also gives us the opportunity to better mitigate the problem when we have the data that reflects how great the problem is in a particular community. So if we know that this is a disparity, meaning we're more likely to see more tobacco products advertised in our low-income community, we can then step back to have candid dialogs about these disparities, but also be in a position to better mitigate them."