In late May, several local Youth 2 Youth members gathered with the Prevention Staff of Maryhaven at the Mills Center to conduct the third annual Environmental Scan of local alcohol outlets and tobacco smoke shops. The UCDFC requests this annual audit of local outlets to examine alcohol advertising and placement of alcoholic beverages. With marijuana legalization in the news, this year the Coalition also wanted to examine the local availability of marijuana paraphernalia.
Teams of students and adult volunteers visited 13 local stores that sell alcohol and two stores that focus on tobacco sales. The students often found alcohol to be in coolers that also sold other beverages attractive to kids, such as energy drinks, juice and soda, and even ice cream. The students also noticed alcohol themed products in isles where there was no alcohol, such as beer pong balls in the chip isle, and alcohol placed within close proximity to candy.
Two stores in our community focus on tobacco sales. These stores also house a large selection of marijuana paraphernalia and marijuana culture items such as incense, bongs, Rastafarian themed ashtrays, and more. The students reported experiencing headaches after a short exposure to the stores interior air. They reported that "the smell is overwhelming" and quickly exited the store. It was difficult for the youth to understand how someone could sell a "gas-mask waterbong", if marijuana is illegal. The youth were also confused as to why there isn't an age restriction on entering a store that focuses a majority of sales on a product sold strictly to adults.
When 22% of students report that they've purchased alcohol and 10% reporting that they've stolen alcohol, it's time we as a community take steps to prevent undreage drinking and that can start with access. It's important we work with our partners in the business community to limit access and reduce theft. We appreciate all of our local volunteers, both, youth and adult, for participating in the annual environmental scan.