ELIZABETHTOWN - The Adirondack Tobacco Free Network is looking to reduce tobacco's attractiveness to children through several initiatives.
Kendra Gertsch, senior public health educator for the network, told Essex County supervisors at a committee meeting Tuesday that she hopes to work with local municipalities, organizations and businesses to reduce the visibility of tobacco products in stores.
Gertsch said the "powerwalls" tobacco advertisers pay for merchants to display in stores are brightly colored and eye catching, and are designed to attract children.
"The bigger display, the more money that these retailers will be compensated with," she said.
She said the ATFN worked with the Siena Research Institute over the summer to survey 350 random Essex County residents. They found that 15 percent of county residents smoke, compared to 18 percent in Franklin County and 22 percent in Clinton County.
They also found that 66 percent of county residents don't believe tobacco products should be sold in stores near schools, and 57 percent believe tobacco products shouldn't be visible in stores.
Most smokers say they started before 18, so the best way to reduce smoking rates is to reduce youth tobacco rates, she said.
She suggested a local law that would prohibit the display of tobacco products and advertising. Several chains, like Price Chopper, Hannaford and Tops, have all voluntarily reduced the visibility of their tobacco products, she said.
"You can see they aren't struggling at all," she said. "They're still prospering."
She's also looking for workplaces that would like to go tobacco-free, or at least have a designated smoking area or non-smoking perimeter around the building. She said her organization can help with that type of initiative, through smoking cessation programs to signage.
"We're not trying to target smokers," she said. "We're just looking to reduce the second-hand smoke exposure. We're trying to reduce the youth tobacco rates."
The Adirondack Tobacco Free Network is funded through a grant awarded jointly to Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. It's one of 34 state-funded community partnerships across the state.
For more information about the network or to see full results from the community survey it conducted, go to www.clintonhealth.org/atfn.html.