In a briefing for Wall Street analysts last month, Family Dollar executives said they plan to begin selling tobacco for the first time in the company’s 53-year history. The North Carolina-based discount chain is in more than 7,000 neighborhoods nationwide. Smoking in the United States increasingly has become concentrated among lower income populations, a group who smokes at a higher rate than the population as a whole – and who suffers disproportionately from smoking-caused diseases. The smoking rate among adults living below the poverty level is 28.9 percent, compared with 18.3 percent for adults living above the poverty level, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lower-income populations are also more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. For years, tobacco products have been disproportionately marketed to low socio-economic and minority youth and adults, and evidence has clearly shown that exposure to tobacco advertising can lead to youth smoking initiation. The prevalence of current smoking is greatest among adults with working class jobs, low educational levels, low income, and those who are unemployed; groups that comprise the very communities Family Dollar serves. Making tobacco products more broadly available will only exacerbate the risks to those communities already hardest hit by tobacco use and related diseases.
Since today is World No Tobacco Day, we encourage you to get involved and tell the convenience store chain to reverse their decision to sell tobacco products in stores nationwide. Talk about it. Leave me a comment, Facebook us, or Tweet us @UNMCCRHD using hashtag: #WNTD2012!