Tobacco Ads Target Youth

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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