Survey: Many stores place alcohol ads in areas frequented by youth
La Center United surveys 10 area stores, find 60 percent have alcohol ads within two feet of their candy aisles
By Kelly Moyer, staff reporter
June 10, 2015
Area youth may be getting more exposure to alcohol advertisements than parents think. According to a recent survey by the nonprofit group La Center United, six out of 10 stores surveyed had alcohol ads within two feet of youth-oriented aisles like the candy aisle.
“We know that alcohol advertising encourages youth to drink,” said La Center United member Melissa Flatt. “A 2006 study found that the more alcohol ads young people see, the more likely they are to drink. Visiting these stores gives us much-needed information about our community and what we can do toward supporting youth in making healthy choices and avoiding alcohol.”
Flatt said youth from La Center United, including her own 12-year-old daughter, Kalyn Flatt, have taken part in the survey, a part of the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking’s “Let’s Draw the Line Between Youth and Alcohol” campaign, for the past two years.
This year, the La Center youth surveyed 10 stores: The View Market, the La Center Market Place, Shell gas station mini-mart and the Li’l General Food Store in La Center; the AM/PM, Shell mini-mart, Safeway and Wal-Mart stores in Woodland; and the Chevron mini-mart and AM/PM stores in Ridgefield.
“Compared to last year, the stores did a much better job,” Flatt said. “They all got a letter before we did the survey. And things have definitely improved from last year. The overall number of alcohol ads decreased and there were fewer displays near the doors (where youth could, in theory, shoplift alcohol more easily). And there were zero ads near the toy aisles this year.”
Many of the stores – 60 percent of those surveyed – did still have alcohol ads near areas more likely to attract youth, like the candy aisles. And many still had ads on lower displays, where younger children could view them.
“Ads that are lower than three feet – who do you think is seeing those ads?” Flatt said.
The statewide campaign to reduce alcohol abuse amongst Washington’s youth is something that appeals to the La Center United group, which focuses on issues troubling La Center youth, such as depression, mental health and substance abuse.
Of the pairing with the statewide “Let’s Draw the Line Between Youth and Alcohol” campaign, La Center United’s acting chair, Kris Soske, said: “We’re drawing the line because of alcohol’s negative impact on the developing teen brain. Research shows that teens who drink alcohol are more susceptible to poor grades, assaults, unprotected sex and car accidents.”
Helping to educate local grocery store and mini-mart owners and managers about the negative impact of their alcohol ad placements on area youth is something Flatt feels passionately about.
“I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose,” Flatt said of the placement of alcohol ads near youth-oriented aisles. “And we’re not trying to get people in trouble. We just want to create awareness and help educate the managers and owners.”
The 2015 Washington State Community Assessment of Neighborhood Stores (CANS) form is available online to community groups who wish to participate. Questions include the store’s exterior advertising – does it have ads that appeal to youth on the outside? Are there also exterior ads that advertise hard liquor, beer, wine or other alcohol products – as well as the interior advertising placements near youth-oriented aisles like the candy and toy aisles?
As part of the education and outreach, La Center United also provided “reminders” to local stores in the form of stickers reading: “Providing alcohol to minors could cost you $5,000 and a year in jail.”
“It’s like tapping them on the shoulder,” Flatt said of the stickers. “It’s just saying, ‘Remember this!’”
La Center United is trying to attract more youth and parents to its monthly meetings. The group meets at 7 p.m., every second Thursday of the month during the school year, at the Elementary Library, 700 E. 4th St., La Center. The group’s last meeting before the 2015-16 school year will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., Thurs., June 11.
For more information about La Center United, visit the group’s website at www.lacenterunited.com, email email@example.com or call (360) 213-8385. For more information about the CANS survey or the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, visit www.starttalkingnow.org.