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Counter Tools, Tobacco Retailers and Density

Retail outlet density contributes to the health and wellness of a town and community. Bennington County has the second highest adult tobacco use rate in the state. In the Northshire, 43% of high school students report ever using an electronic vape product as compared the state high school usage rate of 30% (YRBS 2015). 70% of youth go to a convenience store at least once a week (counterbalancevt.com). Substance use prevention engages multiple layers of tools and resources and density and policy is one such tool. Density comes in three forms: population based, number of retail outlets and geographic location.

Three years ago the VT Department of Health engaged substance use prevention coalitions to conduct a statewide audit of retail licensees holding a tobacco and/or alcohol license. The audit focused on healthy food choices including fruits, vegetables and dairy; alcohol products and related displays; tobacco products and related displays, products, and pricing.

The audit resulted in an interactive database called Counter Tools. Counter Tools allows users to extrapolate and integrate information into density and proximity reports related to the number of licensed tobacco retailers in a town. Counter Tools can map information and create visuals showing retailers’ proximity to youth serving organizations such as schools and parks, exemplify the number of retail outlets in the town and how many are in proximity to youth serving organizations or within close proximity to each other. The data reports can be overlaid with town demographics.

The Town of Manchester recently passed a Commerce Ordinance prohibiting the sale of paraphernalia products within 1,000 feet of a school or childcare facility. The Selectboard invited The Collaborative to inform the board on best practices related to location of paraphernalia retail stores and area youth use rates. For more information about Counter Tools and available reports and information, contact Victoria Silsby, at 802-824-4200 or victoria@thecollaborative.us.