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Roswell Park survey focuses on tobacco ads

Most adults in the region believe tobacco displays in stores increase the chance that a child will start smoking and would favor rules to keep cigarettes and other products hidden from view, a Roswell Park Cancer Institute survey shows.

Sixty-seven percent of adults and 80 percent of young people in Erie and Niagara counties see tobacco advertising inside and outside of stores, the survey found.

In addition, the survey showed 79 percent of adults think tobacco product displays increase the chance that a child will start smoking, and 60 percent favor rules that would require tobacco products in stores to be hidden from display.

"The scariest thing is that 80 percent of youth say they see ads, and 20 percent of those say it makes them think about buying tobacco. Half of those kids who say they are influenced are not smokers. This shows the displays are an enticement to try tobacco use. And, if you try tobacco, it doesn't take long to get hooked," said Andrew Hyland, a research scientist in the cancer center's department of health behavior.

The research consisted of a telephone survey of 150 adults and a school-administered survey of 1,500 young people.

The findings were presented Wednesday during a Kick Butts Day event at Sweet Home High School in Amherst to raise awareness of the health risks of tobacco products.

Stores are one of the last places where tobacco promotions are allowed, Hyland said. Ads on television, radio and billboards have been banned, as have cartoon characters, sponsorships and giveaways.

Smoking usually starts in adolescence. More than 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before age 18, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth cigarette use declined from 1997 to 2003, but rates have remained relatively stable in recent years.

"We need to take a stand to get tobacco out of our communities and make the health of our youth the priority," Gretchen Leffler, regional vice president of the Western New York Division of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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