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Tobacco Advertising and its dangerous effects on young people.

Tobacco Advertising Makes Young People Their Chief Target

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


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.

Works Cited

'Bill Clinton vs. Joe Camel.' U.S. News & World Report. 2 Sep. 1996: 12.

Infotrac. Online. 27 Oct. 1996.

'Selling Tobacco to Kids.' America. 17 Feb. 1996: 3. Infotrac. Online.

27 Oct. 1996.

Roberts, Steven. ' Teens on tobacco; kids smoke for reasons all their own.'

U.S. News & World Report.

18 Apr. 1996: 38. Infotrac. Online. 27 Oct. 1996.

Thomas, Roger E. '10 steps to keep the children in your practice

nonsmokers.' American Family

Physician. Aug. 1996: 450. Infotrac. Online. 27 Oct. 1996.

Breo, Dennis L. 'Kicking Butts-AMA, Joe Camel and the 'Black Flag' war on

tobacco.' JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical

Association. 29 Oct. 1993: 1978. Infotrac. Online. 27 Oct. 1996.