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February 3, 2010 > Tobacco Youth Brigade holds picket

Tobacco Youth Brigade holds picket

Submitted By Lilia Reynoso and Sergio Morales
Photos By Bill Mancebo

Students involved in the Tennyson Health Center's Tobacco Youth Brigade (TYB) Program and their supporters held an informational picket in front of Rotten Robbie's gas station store at W Tennyson Road and Ruus Road, Hayward, at 3.30 p.m. on January 28. The Tennyson Health Center is a school-based health center run by Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center Inc.

TYB has worked assiduously to reduce the level of tobacco advertising targeted towards youth and has asked Rotten Robbie's to join the "Health Is Power" campaign. The owners have ignored efforts to contact them 3 times in the past 3 months, including a letter sent via certified mail to corporate office and numerous phone calls.

More than 70 percent of Rotten Robbie's window space is covered with advertisements; this is more than double the legal limit. There is tobacco advertising at four of the station's six gas pumps. The business has tobacco advertisements positioned below three feet high, right at child's-eye level. Tobacco advertising faces the Eden Youth Center whose visitors will see their advertisements at least once a day.

The 1 1/2-hour informational picket involved 20 TYB students. They wore "Health Is Power" T-shirts to promote the campaign and asked Rotten Robbie's to reduce the amount of tobacco advertising on their store. Community support was shown by many passing cars sounding their horn. Customers read the students' signs - "Robbie is Rotten to Youth", "Do You Smell that? Its Robbie", "No More Tobacco Advertising" - and quickly turned away; other customers entered the store to complain about the level of tobacco advertising.

At the beginning of the protest, TYB members Petesia Lewis and Gricelda Mendez informed the store clerk of their planned action and encouraged him to sign the letter to prevent the action from occurring. He said he needed to speak with a manager. TYB members reminded him that numerous letters had been sent to both the local store and corporate office.

Rotten Robbie's Area Manager Connie Halbach arrived 30 minutes into the picketing, spoke with the group, reviewed the letter, took away a copy of the Health Is Power 10-Step Plan and stated she would take it to her colleagues and provide a response. TYB informed her that the informational pickets will continue at this store until tobacco advertising is reduced.

So far, TYB has collaborated with 10 stores in the vicinity of Tennyson High School to reduce their level of tobacco advertising targeting youth. Following, the City of Hayward's "Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance" SEC. 5-6.00, TYB members researched a total of 30 stores in the area and identified the 10 stores with the most tobacco advertisements. Rotten Robbie's was the store with the most violations.

Of the 10 stores identified, Zack's Market (50 Tennyson Road) and Liquor Quick Service Market (272826 Mission Boulevard) have signed on to the "Health Is Power" campaign. TYB will continue to lobby the eight remaining stores, such as Rotten Robbie's, to do the same.

For more information, contact Sergio Morales on (510) 432-5080 or Maricela Gutierrez on (510) 710-4602.

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