Low-income Americans struggle to make ends meet and provide for their families. In many cases, money is tight, they don't have access to health care services or transportation and they have limited shopping choices. It is well documented that individuals with lower incomes and education levels smoke at much higher rates than those with higher incomes and education levels. Dollar General and Family Dollar are entities that cater to those who look to save money by spending less. But now that they are selling cigarettes, does this not speak volumes about their focus on profit, not the health and well-being of their customers?
It is unfortunate the two leading dollar store retailers, whose primary customers are lower income, recently began selling and marketing tobacco products to this already vulnerable population. According to the Family Dollar website, Family Dollar is "your neighborhood dollar discount store, where you'll find the products that you and your family need the most at the lowest prices." But do these families need tobacco and its associated troubles, especially discounted tobacco products and promotions like "buy one, get one" that keep addicted smokers from quitting and encourage youth to start smoking?
According to the Dollar General website, "When you shop Dollar General, you join an effort to make our communities and our world a better place. We are committed to conducting business in a way that promotes healthy families, thriving communities and a cleaner environment. By providing safe practices, we proudly display the values that make our company great." Tobacco is not a safe product, does not make our world a better place and clearly does not promote healthy families.
The truth is that smoking continues to be the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., killing over 25,000 New Yorkers each year. We need to protect our youth from ever picking up a cigarette. The best way to do this would be to reduce the amount of tobacco advertising they see around their communities.
For more information, visit www.realitycheckofny.com.
SARAH KRAEMER, program coordinator with Reality Check