The objective of the Star Store program is to reduce the amount of minor’s exposure to tobacco promotional messaging in retail stores, such as special price and discount signage, free branded promotional items, and general tobacco company in-store such as posters, signs, and other visible logos. The Star Store program works in combination with NO BUTS! (Blocking Underage Tobacco Sales), the Maine CDC program to stop the illegal sale of tobacco to minors.
One-third of underage experimentation with smoking is attributed to the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics. Studies have shown that the more in-store tobacco advertising a retailer has, the more youth think that tobacco use is common and widespread.
Sara Rohr, the Jackman Youth Group Coordinator at Forest Hills H.S. for the last two years states, “The star store program is a great way to bring tobacco prevention awareness to retail stores and communities.”
Mountain Country Supermarket is a grocery store that has been around for more than fifty years. The store has been providing for the Town of Jackman for years and is very important to the community. “Mountain Country Supermarket makes every effort to be a responsible retailer and a business that is involved in and gives back to our community… We are also very involved in supporting and donating to various civic organizations,” said store manager Cheryl Taylor.
Involvement of youth is a key component of the Star Store program. Youth receive special training and they are the ones who make contact with stores, meet with managers, conduct surveys, and recommend changes in tobacco signage and promotion. A retailer’s Star Store designation can be displayed prominently in the store with a decal.
“Anytime we have an opportunity to limit tobacco marketing to youth I feel that we have an obligation to do so. When a store is willing to do so I think it shows a strong commitment to community and a great deal of integrity”, mentions Sara Rohr.
“The store believes that there is a clear and direct correlation between displaying tobacco signage in general and the use of tobacco products by young people. By not displaying tobacco signage outside, the store has committed itself to not encouraging young people to smoke”, expressed Cheryl Taylor.
Over the past few years, state and local data shows that cigarette use has decreased among youth. According to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS), there has been a change in cigarette use among middle and high school students in Somerset County. From 2009 to 2013, the percentage of cigarette use among middle school students decreased from 9% to 4%. The percentage of cigarette use among high school students decreased from 20% in 2009 to 16% in 2013. By educating youth on the effects of tobacco and decreasing the amount of tobacco advertisements shown within a community, the amount of youth using tobacco products will decrease.
“Mountain Country Supermarket was wonderful to work with. The management was very supportive and active in making changes that would limit advertising of tobacco products to minors. We had a very similar experience last year with Bishop’s Store as well which I feel is a testament to the value placed on the community by our local store owners”, said Rohr.
“Becoming a Star Store Program, hopefully along with other retailers, is a statement by the store that we will not and do not sell cigarettes to minors and encourage them not to smoke at all”, states Taylor.
Somerset Public Health, located in Skowhegan, is the local Healthy Maine Partnership that provides assistance to schools, worksites, and communities in developing environmental and policy changes that promote healthy lifestyles. We service towns from Skowhegan and up to Jackman.