The Tobacco Manufacturers Mitigation Fee- Makin ‘em pay!


root - Posted on 08 May 2007

Youth community organization LEJ is home to the Tobacco Free Project that is dedicated to fighting the big tobacco manufacturers that are unfairly targeting thier neighborhoods.

by Youth Envision Project, Literacy for Environmental Justice

There are many different issues affecting urban communities such as pollution, violence, and drugs. An issue that is often overlooked and lessened is tobacco. Youth advocates at Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ), and Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) have been working to address this issue. Both organizations have been researching their communities to identify how the Tobacco Industry targets communities of color, specifically the Bay View Hunters Point and the Mission.

LEJ home to Tobacco Free Project (TFP) is an empowerment and environmental health and justice organization based in the community of Bayview Hunters Point San Francisco. TFP is a youth group whose goal is to create change by finding alternatives to the tobacco industry’s influence in their neighborhood. The Youth Leadership Institute is an organization that works with youth and adult allies to create positive social change. YLI designs and implements community based programs that provide youth leadership skills in alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention, philanthropy, and civic engagement. YLI is home to Youth Organized Against Tobacco in San Francisco (YOAT SF), a Mission based youth group working to bring economic and social justice to the Mission district through tobacco advocacy.

Both groups worked most of last year collecting neighborhood residents, youth and merchants to understand the Tobacco Industry tactics used to push their products into communities like their own. In the Bayview, TFP found that 84.5 percent of merchants said that they receive incentives from tobacco companies. This included 72.1 percent of merchant who received incentives in the form of buys downs and discounts. And of all merchants surveyed in the Bayview, an overwhelming 92.3 percent said that they have contracts with tobacco companies. These survey results go to show that tobacco companies have their hands very much in the mix in the retail environment in the Bayview Hunters Point.

While in the Mission, YOAT SF found that there are a total of 120 tobacco retailers in the mission district, a geographic area of one square mile! Additionally, YOAT SF found that the average amount of money that Mission families spend on cigarettes is $10 per week or $520 per year, a high figure for a neighborhood where 39% of the Latino population in Mission is at or below 40% of the area median income AMI.

Research has proven that higher concentration of tobacco retailer outlets has been linked with higher rates of smoking. All this in the Mission and Bayview, plus the fact that tobacco companies have increased their advertising promotion in and around the retail environment since billboards were banned, is enough to show the damage being done in low-income communities throughout the state with similar socio-economic profiles.

That’s why YLI and LEJ have decided to fight against Big Tobacco and start the Tobacco Manufacturers Mitigation Fee Campaign.

The Mitigation Fee is a fee that is going to be placed on every pack of cigarettes sold in the city of San Francisco. It will be used to alleviate the consequences that the Tobacco Industry has caused our communities with the sales of their harmful products. With a per pack fee and over 36 million packs sold a year, there will be an average of almost $10 million dollars mitigated from Big Tobacco, if our policy passes. The money from the Mitigation Fee will go to fund youth prevention and cessation programs, non-profit organizations and youth groups like LEJ and YOATSF to continue the ongoing fight against Big Tobacco.

We feel that it is time for our communities to stand up for themselves and have an impact on our neighborhoods’ futures. We will not sit by and tolerate any more attacks from the Tobacco Industry through their forceful advertisements, mass promotions and sales!

Currently, we are gathering as much support as we can from our communities and neighboring communities, but until then, look out for us collecting signatures throughout the city of San Francisco or presenting at your local youth organization!

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