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Bronson, Williston vote against teen tobacco marketing

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By Mark Scohier

Both Bronson Town Council members and Williston councilors are siding with area teens and an education and research foundation that seek to limit deaths from smoking.

Bronson council members voted unanimously Monday night to sign a resolution acknowledging that tobacco products are dangerous and that the marketing to teenagers and children of such products within the town is discouraged.

Similarly, Williston Council unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday night.

The resolution urges retailers in the area to remove products, such as the ones marketed with the allure of candy flavors, from “conspicuous display” and out of reach of minors of a “tender age.”

The idea was presented to council members weeks ago by area teens involved with Students Working Against Tobacco, though the council agreed it would have to review the proposed resolution before it could vote.

“It’s really exciting,” said T.J. Harrington, director of policy and advocacy for the Quit Doc foundation, an organization that promotes tobacco-free policies in rural communities.

Harrington, who attended Monday night’s meeting, said efforts to reduce teen use of tobacco are especially important in rural areas such as Levy County, where, traditionally, use tends to be higher. About 90 percent of tobacco users start using products before they are 18, he said after the meeting.

According to statistics provided by Harrington, teen use of tobacco products in Levy County has increased dramatically in the last several years. From 2008 to 2012, smokeless tobacco use went up 83.5 percent. Cigar (and related products) use went up 71.2 percent.

But in places such as Dixie and Gilchrist counties, where ordinances and resolutions have been in place for a few years, use has gone down. From 2008 to 2012, smokeless tobacco use by Dixie County teens went down by 2.4 percent. In Gilchrist, it went down 34 percent. Cigar use went down by 17.6 percent in Dixie County.

 Harrington said the county and places such as Williston already have product placement ordinances, but efforts are also being aimed having resolutions passed.  He said he’s hoping to get everyone in the state involved.