A statewide survey has found that 70 percent of markets in California have outdoor advertising for unhealthy products like tobacco, alcohol and junk food, while only about 12 percent advertise healthy options like fruits and vegetables. Those numbers were nearly identical for stores in L.A. County.
The survey, conducted by a coalition of local governments and private groups in every county in the state, compared the availability of healthy and unhealthy products in thousands of small and large stores, and how those products are marketed. Public health officials released the results at a Los Angeles press conference on Wednesday.
In L.A county, for example, the survey found that only about 40 percent of stores that sell tobacco also sell fresh fruits and vegetables, and that the same percentage of stores place tobacco products near candy displays. It also found that many of the stores that sell tobacco products are within 1,000 feet of a school.
"When our children are walking home from school and they stop at the store to get a snack, they’re often met with choices like candy-flavored tobacco," said Pamela Sepulveda, a social worker at a youth shelter in Orange County that helped conduct the survey. "And yes, it is illegal to sell these items to our teens. However, when our teen goes to grab a Starburst, right next to it is a grape flavored cigarillo. The teen is being marketed to directly."
The survey is part of a statewide campaign called Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community. Its goal is to persuade store owners not to market unhealthy products to kids, and to carry more healthy foods. Detailed data for each county in the state is available on the campaign's website.