Marion County Efforts in Preventing Youth Tobacco Use at the Retail Point-of-Sale
June 11, 2020

The Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) of Marion County is a collaborative effort of various local organizations and concerned residents that work to reduce tobacco use among youth and de-normalize its use in public places. While 2020 has reduced gatherings and subsequently taken a toll on effective community based endeavors, the TFP members have continued to push through and engage with decision makers and stakeholders to address tobacco where it is most readily available and normalized, as the retail point-of-sale.

This year’s efforts began in February, when TFP member Linda Caldwell spoke to the Ocala City Council members about the need for increased awareness concerning Tobacco Retail Licensing (TRL), saying “When our youth visit convenience stores, there is tremendous influence to purchase tobacco products at the point of sale. Children may stop by to get a snack, but while there, standing at the register, they fall prey to the power wall, a concentrated advertising effort of signs, displays, coupons near the register; the goal of the Power wall is to encourage impulse sales. If it didn't work, it wouldn't be there! One purchase may lead to addiction. A local TRL can help prevent youth from this dangerous marketing trap.”

Caldwell went on to educate the decision makers concerning how TRL works in a community that, “TRL fees provide for self-financing enforcement and TRL can help communities improve health equity.” Unfortunately, the recent concern for youth initiation does not lie only with traditional cigarettes, but with electronic cigarette products, and Caldwell explained that, “in Florida, our state tobacco retail license only applies to retailers of traditional tobacco products. Retailers who only sell e-cigarettes and vapor products are not required to get a license.”

This fact is not only concerning, but eye-opening to those who do not want youth exposed to this addictive substance that has begun to take hold of the new generation. A common misconception of electronic cigarettes is that they are filled with harmless water vapor, but several studies have shown that some chemicals can be found at higher levels in e-cigarettes than in regular cigarettes, including propylene glycol, diacetyl, cinnamaldehyde, and benzaldehyde.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, E-cigarette aerosol can also contain harmful substances, like cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals including nickel, tin, and lead.

A local TRL can assist in curbing electronic cigarette use among youth by implementing a requirement for local vape shops to purchase an updated local TRL like other tobacco retailers are mandated to do by state law. Without this additional step, Caldwell explained, that the current authority is “keeping these retailers off the radar of agencies doing compliance checks.  We need a city or county tobacco retail license to ensure all tobacco and e-cigarette retailers in Marion County are accounted for and comply with local, state, and federal tobacco laws.”

Retailers selling tobacco products in Marion County support efforts to curb underage use and initiation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently released a campaign called, “This is Our Watch,” and local retailers are happy to participate. Shift manager, Deja at a local Circle K pays particular attention to underage tobacco use and sales. Her staff have been kept informed through ongoing support from the TFP for over a year, and her insight as a retailer has been irreplaceable. Her store is always crowded, but somehow she always finds time to provide insight and share strategies on this important topic.      


Another retailer, a local Marathon owner is also proudly displaying the digital calendar for patrons who may inquire about tobacco products. These digital calendars are free of cost, and are available for placement at other locations!

Community partners such as these local retailers are what make the TFP stand out by making the decision to create high impact changes that will inevitably affect those most vulnerable. The TFP members utilize these partnerships to strengthen local policy efforts, continuing to work towards the de-normalization of tobacco and electronic cigarette use; especially among youth and young adults.



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QuitDoc Foundation
Marion County Tobacco Free Partnership and
Lauren Fischer · Tobacco Prevention Specialist · 352-359-5383 ·