This week the FDA released the new warning labels for cigarettes (see our story on the labels here). A similar initiative is underway in Jefferson County. The United Way of Central Alabama and the Jefferson County Department of Health have created signs based in part on the FDA warnings. The signs feature a picture and written message depicting the dangers of smoking along with information for smokers who want to quit. These signs are being placed at the point-of-sale or other conspicuous areas in Jefferson County retail stores that sell tobacco products.
Keith Bussey, Tobacco Retail Warning Specialist for the Health Action Partnership, says the initiative is completely voluntary. “We have a list of businesses that are licensed to sell tobacco products, and from that list I visit the owners or key decision makers and inform them of what we’re doing to curb tobacco consumption in Jefferson County,” Bussey says. “We’re working closely with a lot of locally owned convenience stores.”
Thirty-seven stores in Jefferson County were approached to place signs in their stores. Out of those 37, 30 responded and 28 stores agreed to post the signs in their business.
“Some of the owners we’ve reached out to are former smokers,” Bussey says, “Or they’re current smokers but they want to provide the information to customers who might want help. Some of the owners are somewhat concerned about a possible backlash from Big Tobacco, but it is more important to them to support their community. Many of these stores, like one store located in Pinson where we hung our first sign, are icons in the community. They feel they have a responsibility to their customers and neighbors.”
For customers, the signs provide a reminder of the health dangers of cigarettes without judgment. In addition to the picture and written message, the signs advise smokers who want to quit to call 1-800-QUITNOW to connect them with help locally. “We wanted to give those who smoke or consume other tobacco products the information they need, to make informed decisions about using those products or seeking help with cessation attempts,” Bussey says. “Instead of telling them they’re doing something bad, just telling them, ‘If you’re ready you can call these people and get the help you need.’”
If you own a business that sells tobacco products and you’d like signs to display, contact Keith Bussey at (205) 930-1316. The signs are provided and installed free, courtesy of the Health Department.