1 in 4 teenagers use tobacco…

USA Today ran an article “Teen tobacco ‘epidemic’ shocks surgeon general”.

According to the article, one in four high school seniors and one in three young adults under the age of 26 use tobacco. All of this despite 50 years of clear warnings about how bad tobacco can be for your health.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin says, one in every three young smokers will quit and one in every three will die from tobacco-related causes.  “Young peoples bodies are still developing, and it makes them more susceptible to the addictiveness of nicotine and the damage of tobacco to their luings and heart,” according to Benjamin.

In a 2009 report done by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System  the highest percentage of teenagers that try tobacco lies mostly on Hispanic males with 54.5%, next up Hispanic females at 47.6%, white males with 45.2% and black males at 43.5%.  The use of smokeless tobacco (chew, dip, etc.) has increased in recent years from 11% in 2003 to 15% in 2009.  Smoking tobacco has been greatly reduced since 1999, dropping from a high 36.4% to 19.5%, which is great news.

The Surgeon General wants to blame the tobacco industry and their marketing for tobacco use in teenagers…

“Tobacco marketing is a big cause of the problem,” said Danny McGoldrick of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, citing his group’s report this week on the industry’s partnerships with convenience stores to prominently advertise and display tobacco products.

Here is where I disagree…

When I grew up in the 1980’s and 90’s I clearly remember cigarette ads everywhere. From really pretty ladies smoking Capris and Virginia Slims  to the manly Marlboro man, and then of course the cartoon Joe Camel. We saw huge billboard and magazine ads, there were even figurines and toys. I even remember collecting “Camel Cash” to buy cool stuff from the Camel magazine. But we don’t see these kind of ads anymore.

In the last ten years do you ever see cigarette ads or billboards?  Rarely, since 1999.

According to wikipedia, after 1971, a large number of tobacco advertising was done in magazines, newspapers and on billboards. As the introduction of the  Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, all product packaging as well as advertising campaigns need to display a health warning from the Surgeon General. In November 2003, tobacco companies and magazine publishers agreed to end the placement of advertising campaigns in school library editions of four major magazines: Time, Individuals, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek.

Billboards are a main site of cigarette marketing (10 % of Michigan billboards promoted drinking and tobacco, according to the Detroit Free Press). They made the headlines when, in the tobacco settlement of 1999, all cigarette billboards were replaced by having anti-smoking messages. In a parody of the Marlboro Man, some billboards shown cowboys driving on ranches with messages like “I miss my lung, Bob.”

The European Union and World Health Organization (WHO) have both specified that the advertising of tobacco should not be allowed. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into effect on 27 February 2005, requires that all of the 168 countries that agreed to the treaty ban tobacco advertising unless their constitution forbade it.

Several countries also impose legal requirements on the product packaging of tobacco products. For example, in the countries of the European Union, Turkey, Australia and South Africa, cigarette packs must be prominently labeled with the health risks associated with smoking. Canada, Australia, Thailand, Iceland, Mexico and Brazil have also imposed labels upon cigarette packs warning smokers of the effects, and they include graphic images of the potential health effects of smoking.

In 2012 the FDA will require larger, more prominent cigarette health warnings on all cigarette packaging and advertisements in the United States.  These warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking.

Some of the new warnings you will see on tobacco products:

Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States, and claims almost half a million lives each year.  Requiring larger, more prominent warnings on cigarette packaging and advertisements is part of a broader strategy to help tobacco users quit and prevent young people from starting.  The new warnings serve as reminder of the negative health consequences of smoking every time someone picks up a pack of cigarettes or views a cigarette advertisement.

Do you think these new warning will help? I hope they do!

In my opinion, I feel that most teenagers smoke to rebel and because their friends smoke, and they think it is cool. I also think most teenagers that smoke probably have parents that smoke. According to that report from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), 14% of teenagers usually buy their own cigarettes in a store. So what about the other 86%? I have to assume they get their cigarettes from friends and family.

So, how do we get teenagers to avoid smoking? First, maybe we have to have to help the parents quit smoking. There are a lot of options out there now. Of course there is the patch, gum, and prescription drugs. There are also E-Cigarettes to help as well. Maybe if teenagers really knew how hard it is to quit smoking, they might think twice about trying it themselves. Teenagers never think they will get hooked, or that they will suffer from the plethora of health risks associated with chewing and smoking tobacco. They don’t realize that all those graphic pictures of lung cancer is actually them, years later.

I was that teenager that smoked, and I struggled my entire adult life with that addiction. I also watched my grandparents and parents struggle with nicotine addiction as well. I am thankful that my entire family has quit smoking. We hope to keep it that way, we want to stop the cycle of passing our addictions on to our kids. As adults and parents, it is our job to help our kids make the right decisions, and it starts with us making the right decisions first.

Wikipedia: Tobacco advertising 
USA Today
CDC report
FDA Report




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