Teenage Smoking

Teenage Smoking In a society where it is not unordinary to see a ten year old child smoking a cigarette in public, where large tobacco companies sponsor all big sporting events and where smoking advertisements are everywhere you look, how can it be understood that what is going on is a form of suicide. Smoking is comparable to a serial killer; a cigarette acts as the weapon used by tobacco companies and its victims subjecting themselves by their own free will to participate in the crime. The governments of the United States and many other countries have chosen to regulate addictive substances, like cigarettes, via taxation; minimum-age purchase laws; restrictions on consumption in schools, the workplace, and public places; and stiff fines for driving under the influence of alcohol. The prices of these substances will rise because of taxation; other forms of regulation, and bans. Thus, measuring their responsiveness to price is important in determining the optimal level of taxation and the impacts of legalization. Contrary to conventional wisdom, studies find that the consumption of addictive substances is quite sensitive to price. Teen smoking has been increasing since 1991.

There are economic, psychological and sociological factors that play an important role in this increase. Economically, cigarettes are highly advertised, extremely affordable and accessible to practically anyone. As for the advertisement aspect in the sale of cigarettes, tobacco companies spend billions of dollars per year to advertise their brands. This money is spent on the actual advertisement, and also on manipulating the subconscious minds of teenagers. (Reynolds, 1999) Billboards and magazines lure teenagers to smoke, by using teen idols and appealing photos in their ads.

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The Canadian Government has been attempting to put a stop to tobacco industries using teen idols in selling their products, by passing Bill C-71, a legislation that forbids tobacco companies from putting up signs for events in which they sponsor. The car racer and teen idol, Jacques Villeneuve can no longer be advertised in his car racing suit as Rothman’s cigarettes advertisements are highly visible on it, as this would give off a negative message to teens who look up to him. The only exception to this law however, is that the signs may be put up at the site of the event, in bars or in newspapers which are read by adults. (Scott, 1997) An example of a sporting event is the DuMaurier tennis tournament held in Montreal, and sponsored by the DuMaurier tobacco industry. This event was, until this law was passed, advertised (on billboards, in magazines and on television) all over Montreal. Bill C-71 was an attempt at preventing teenagers from seeing these advertisements, as the government believed this to be an important factor in the growth of youth smokers. This legislation though, was not very effective as statistics show that more than half of Canadian teens have seen advertisements for tobacco sponsored events.

(Scott, 1997). During the 1040’s and 50’s smoking was popular and socially acceptable. Movie stars, sports heroes, and celebrities appeared in cigarette advertisements that promoted and heavily influenced teens. Influence also came from Television and other media sources. The desires to be accepted and to feel grown up are among the most common reasons to start smoking.

Yet, even though teenagers sometimes smoke to gain independence, and to be part of the crowd parental influence plays the strongest role as to whether or their children will smoke, Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), 1991. Children are exposed to and influenced by the parents, siblings, and the media long before peer pressure will become a factor. Mothers should not smoke during pregnancy, nicotine, which crosses the placental barrier, may affect the female fetus during an important period of development so as to predispose the brain to the addictive influence of nicotine. Prenatal exposure to smoking has previously been linked with impairments in memory, learning, cognition, and perception in the growing child. (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 1995) Subsequent follow-up after 12 years suggest that regardless of the amount or duration of current or past maternal smoking, the strongest correlation between maternal smoking and a daughter’s smoking occurred when the mother smoked during pregnancy. NIDA also reported that of 192 mothers and their first born adolescents with a mean age of 12 1/2, the analysis revealed that 26.6% of the girls whose mother smoked while pregnant had smoked in the past year.

Tobacco companies target teens because 85 to 90% of all new smokers begin before or during their teenage years, so marketing demographics compel cigarette companies to target adolescents if they are the ones that are going to replace those smokers who die or quit. Tobacco industries though are criticized for targeting youths by linking smoking with attitudes and activities that appeal to the young. “Young people are being indoctrinated with tobacco promotion at a susceptible time in their lives. (Jacobson p.153)” Several advertising campaigns illustrate the insightful understanding of how to appeal teenagers. The best example of this one is the advertisement campaigns for Camel cigarettes launched in 1988.

During this campaign Camel’s new trademark with Old Joe Camel, the contemporary cartoon was introduced. That year, 75 million dollars was spent to plaster Joe Camel on billboards, magazines, T-Shirts, Jackets, sports arenas, and storefronts across the land. Joe Camel dominated the youth market after 1988, and prior to this year it was the ‘Marlboro Man’. (Jacobson p.149) Another main factor in the increase of teenage smoking is that cigarettes are highly accessible to teenagers across Canada. This fact is due to the large number in illegal sales of cigarettes, in depanneurs across Canada.

New Brunswick and Quebec have shown to have the two highest rates for the illegal sale of cigarettes. (New Brunswick with 60% and Quebec with 50%). Of major cities in Canada, Chicoutimi and Montreal are the two cities in which most teens smoke and are illegally sold cigarettes. In Montreal, 30 % of 380 corner stores were caught selling cigarettes to 15 and 16 year olds. Although this number has dropped 10%, there has not yet been a significant change in teen smoking. This number is still on the rise as, in 1995, of 50 depanneurs in Montreal visited in a study, and 98% of them sold cigarettes to teens.

(Taylor, 1997) Quebec however, remains the province with the greatest number of teen smokers and the highest rate of illegal sales of cigarettes in Canada. “To be effective and to see real progress, the number has to be less th …


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