Lower income areas in central Wichita have 38 percent of the tobacco retailers in the city, according to a new survey presented at the Tobacco Marketing Summit at the Kansas Leadership Center on Wednesday.
The survey, which was conducted by Tobacco Free Wichita, a nonprofit advocacy organization, relied on various source materials, including Census Bureau data and city licensing information. The group also sent people to tobacco retailers across the city to gather information about how tobacco is marketed in Wichita.
“Your life expectancy in the United States today is much more likely to be dictated by your ZIP code than your genetic code,” Kathryn Sikes, chairwoman for Tobacco Free Wichita, said at the summit, which included attendees from academia and public health.
The survey found that six ZIP codes along the I-135 corridor (67203, 67214, 67211, 67218, 67210, 67216) have 38 percent of tobacco retail licenses in the city. Those ZIP codes have household incomes mostly between about $22,000 and $39,000 a year – some of the lower in Wichita.
Six wealthier ZIP codes on the east and west sides of town had 6 percent of tobacco retail licenses in Wichita, according to the survey.
“There’s a huge income difference, which does impact zoning,” Sikes said.
Sikes said the initial data will be used to find trends and that the group plans to do additional research in Wichita and surrounding areas.
There are about 340 licensed tobacco retailers in Wichita, according to Sikes.
A portion of the survey that looked at price promotions and advertising included only 50 tobacco retailers in Wichita and was conducted in February. The survey found:
• More than 90 percent of stores have tobacco price promotions posted inside or outside the store.
• The lowest advertised prices range from $2.99 to $4.97, with an average price of $3.96.
• Ninety-seven percent of convenience stores sell flavored cigars and cigarillos.
• Twenty-six percent of retailers had advertising within three feet of the floor, which Sikes said is targeted toward children.
• Twenty-five percent of retailers had gum, toys or candy near tobacco products.
• Eighty-eight percent of convenience stores sell e-cigarettes.
Another group, Resist – an anti-tobacco movement affiliated with the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition – also presented its statewide survey of more than 130 tobacco retailers in Kansas.
It found that 72 percent of stores sold flavored cigars, and the average retail price for a pack of cigarettes was $5.13.
A youth leader with Resist, Gabriela Martinez, 17, from Dodge City, shared the story of how she was offered her first cigarette by older children when she was 6 years old during Red Ribbon Week, a national anti-drug campaign held each year in schools.
Now, when she teaches other teens about tobacco marketing, “A lot of the kids felt like they were being used (by tobacco companies),” she said.