Cigarette And Tobacco Advertising

The effect of cigarette and tobacco advertising on modern youth is vastly overrated. While

both political and health activists insist otherwise, today’s adolescence choose their habits,

addictions, and desires ultimately out of their own free will. Increased opportunity for

advertising within today’s society undeniably leaves today’s youth more susceptible to

many forms of psychological manipulation.

Teen-agers are now living in a society guided by unprecedented and highly

unreliable sources of mass media. With their preferred source of information rapidly

switching from the newspaper, radio and television, to the questionable and undependable

Internet, modern youth is being forced to be much more scrutinizing of the information

they encounter (Williams Smoking 8). While in previous generations advertising had a

direct effect on the actions of a population, nowadays, in order to survive the swelling

information super-highway, teen-agers, along with all other active members of society are

being forced to question the obvious, and separate true and false. Cigarette advertising is

just a small part of the overloaded hype faced by today’s youth (Williams Smoking 8).

While in previous generations, this advertising would be digested quite naturally, now

adolescents are being forced to take a much more critical approach to this intrusive

influence. Thus, the desired psychological manipulation that tobacco companies’

multiplying advertisements attempt to set upon today’s youth is ironically being

undermined by the very fact that advertisements such as their own now dominate society

to the point where they can no longer be taken seriously (Williams Smoking 9). Youth are

now being forced to discern between believable and non-believable information. Because

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of this, their scrutiny of the formerly obvious advertisements has developed drastically

(Ayer 12). Therefore, as sources of media and information multiply, the effect of cigarette

advertisements, as well as any other attempt at mental deception inevitably become less

effective (Ayer 12). Although adolescents are becoming more aware of certain elements of

society, and their potential influences, their ways of life will undeniably remain constant.

The harmful effect of tobacco is undisputed among smokers and non-smokers

alike. The motivations for teen-agers to smoke are primarily to comfortably fit into their

social surroundings, as well as the need to experiment with the unknown. These two

causes are related very directly (Monroe 15). The coolest teen-agers in any social circle

are without fail the most rebellious. Common qualities among leaders of any group of kids

are the tendencies to go ahead and try something new, and flirt with danger (Monroe 15).

Thus, with the two motivations both leading towards increased peer pressure, the desire

among teen-agers to follow the path of the rebel, and light up a cigarette has not been

softened. Advertisements and endorsements of cigarettes will continue to exist as long as

the youth remain strong clientele for cigarettes (Monroe 16). Tobacco promotion is not

the cause of cigarette popularity among teenagers, simply a natural consequence to their

desire to smoke. Manufacturers, such as Marlboro and Camel, have created "cute"

fictional characters in their advertising. Marlboro uses a character called the "Western

Man", while Camel uses the cool, "Joe Camel". The industry denies that these symbols

target people under 21 and claim that their advertising goal is simply to promote brand

switching (Monroe 38). The issue of gaining teen-agers as cigarette clientele is distorted,

however, cigarette advertisements are successful in gaining the loyalty of their clientele to

their respective brands (Monroe 41). Whether commercials and endorsements increase or

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decrease, the market will remain strong as long as teen-agers’ cravings for independence,

rebellion, and leadership do not change.

Over the past decade, all major Canadian cities have passed non-smoking policies

in their public establishments (Monroe 41). Tobacco companies’ endorsements of various

cultural events have been cut down at an alarming pace. Such attempts to reduce the

smoking population actually disillusion today’s youth further into their justifications for

smoking (Monroe 55). Firstly, by cutting down on public smoking, the freedom of

individuals, for which teen-agers strive so adamantly, is tampered with. The often narrow

minded teen-ager does not always consider the rights of the non-smoker in public

establishments, and simply gains more pride in his rebellious actions (Monroe 56). While

advertisements will surely encourage teens to continue in their ways, it is actually the

sanctions denying their freedom to smoke that induce eager adolescent reactions to

cigarette advertisements (Monroe 58). Secondly, as we have seen in the Grand Prix of

Montreal, the Jazz Festival, as well as many other cultural events sponsored and

dependent on cigarette endorsement, it is the event itself that attracts the youth to the

various events (Monroe 60). By restricting the opportunity of tobacco industries to

support and enrich our society’s cultural development, both smokers and non-smokers

suffer. The loss and downsizing of great events is simply another consequence of the

misdirected attempts to lure the youth away from cigarettes (Monroe 61).

Many factors influence the decisions made by teenagers today. Their vulnerability

to the advertising market definitely allows cigarette companies to market their product

among the youth. However, an individual’s personality is composed of many deeper levels

than simple subliminal messages that come and go through advertisements and

endorsements (Williams Teen 43). Childhood molds the individual into who he is

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throughout his adolescence. Throughout childhood, parents guide their children, and

shield them from the influences that they know to be harmful (Williams Teen 45). Thus,

once a teen-ager, the individual making the decision whether to smoke, whether to be

influenced by society’s lures and traps, has already become who he is. His course of action

will not depend on a good looking camel, but the desire to rebel or conform. This decision

will be made depending on the true influences that made the individual. After all,

advertisements can influence your taste, and increase your desire. They cannot force

addiction, however, nor make anybody do what they wish not do (Williams Teen 45). For

youth to distance themselves from tobacco, stronger parental guidance as well as

increased confidence are needed. Advertisements, endorsements and promotions that

publicly promote cigarettes simply feed on these basic weaknesses of our society (Ayer


The popularity of cigarettes among adolescents is a dilemma that has been

detached from its roots. While stronger self-confidence and increased parental

communication decrease the need to rebel, and seek re-assurance in cigarettes, pressure to

remove advertisements and endorsements which simply exploit this weakness of society is

imposed. Each adolescent has the power to change, and grow. Without overcoming

challenges such as these adverse influences in society, the teen-ager cannot discover his

own potential, and appreciate his true self.

Word Count: 1096

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