ELIZABETHTOWN — Kendra Gertsch is doing all she can to stop people in the tri-county region from smoking.
The senior public-health educator for Adirondack Tobacco Free Network regularly visits places that sell tobacco products to ask that they keep them behind the counter.
Gertsch said Siena Research Institute did a telephone survey for the network last summer that showed 15 percent of Essex County residents smoke, 22 percent in Clinton County and 18 percent in Franklin County.
“Over half of all the residents surveyed in Essex County support a point-of-sale initiative, (meaning) they want to see those tobacco not sold in stores located near schools, and they also want to reduce the visibility of those tobacco products.”
The survey found that 66 percent of tri-county residents don’t believe tobacco products should be sold in stores near schools and that 57 percent think tobacco products shouldn’t be visible in stores.
The point-of-sale displays in stores are where young people are targeted to become smokers, she said.
“They use power walls,” Gertsch said. “These are the brightly displayed walls that you’ll see in convenience stores, often behind the counters or at eye level right where the children can see them.”
Tobacco companies use discount coupons to get people to try cigarettes and give retailers promotional allowances to showcase their brands, she said.
Tobacco companies have a lot of money to spend on marketing, she said.
“They are creating more ways to make these products more appealing to you.”
“Kids think it’s cool to smoke when they see (cigarettes) being advertised like this,” Gertsch said, “and kids also think that they’re immortal, that they aren’t susceptible to any of the tobacco-related illnesses, and they also think if they smoke one cigarette, they won’t be addicted.”