Tobacco Ads Target Youth

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Everyday 3,000 children start smoking, most them between the ages of 10 and 18. These kids account for 90 percent of all new smokers. In fact, 90 percent of all adult smokers said that they first lit up as teenagers (Roberts). These statistics clearly show that young people are the prime target in the tobacco wars. The cigarette manufacturers may deny it, but advertising and promotion play a vital part in making these facts a reality (Roberts). The kings of these media ploys are Marlboro and Camel. Marlboro uses a fictional western character called The Marlboro Man, while Camel uses Joe Camel, a high-rolling, swinging cartoon character. Joe Camel, the "smooth character" from R.J. Reynolds, who is shown as a dromedary with complete style has been attacked by many Tobacco-Free Kids organizations as a major influence on the children of America. Dr. Lonnie Bristow, AMA (American Medical Association) spokesman, remarks that "to kids, cute cartoon characters mean that the product is harmless, but cigarettes are not harmless. They have to know that their ads are influencing the youth under 18 to begin smoking"(Breo). Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia report that almost as many 6-year olds recognize Joe Camel as know Mickey Mouse (Breo). That is very shocking information for any parent to hear. The industry denies that these symbols target people under 21 and claim that their advertising goal is simply to promote brand switching and loyalty. Many people disagree with this statement such as Illinois Rep. Richard Durbin who states " If we can reduce the number of young smokers, the tobacco companies will be in trouble and they know it "(Roberts). So what do the tobacco companies do to keep their industry alive and well? Seemingly, they go toward a market that is not fully aware of the harm that cigarettes are capable of. U.S. News recently featured a discussion of the smoking issue with 20 teenagers from suburban Baltimore. The group consisted of ten boys and ten girls between the ages of 15 and 17. When asked why they started smoking, they gave two contradictory reasons: They wanted to be a part of a peer group. They also wanted to reach out and rebel at the same time. " When you party, 75 to 90 percent of the kids are smoking. It makes you feel like you belong," says Devon Harris, a senior at Woodlawn High. Teens also think of smoking as a sign of independence. The more authority figures tell them not to smoke, the more likely they are to pick up the habit (Roberts). The surprising thing is that these kids know that they are being influenced by cigarette advertising. If these kids know that this advertising is manipulating them, why do they still keep smoking? The ads are everywhere, especially in teen-oriented magazines, such as Rolling Stone and Spin. The ads also fuel some of the reasons the children gave for starting. They represent rebellion, independence, acceptance and happiness. These are all the things a young person, between childhood and adolescence, needs and desires. This type of advertising, on top of peer pressure, is the mystery behind the rise in adolescent smoking. How do we stop the future of America from smoking? Here are three things that the experts recommend. Try to convince your children that smoking is not cool. Talk to your kids at a young age about the dangers of smoking. Identify family members who smoke and ask them to stop (Thomas). Children are the most valuable commodity we are given in life. Let's try to educate them while they're young to be independent thinkers and to not be swayed by the tobacco companies who are trying to take advantage of their mind and body.

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