Cigarette Advertising: Hook ‘Em Young

The tobacco industry would shrink significantly if kids stopped smoking. Today, the Great American Smokeout, is the perfect time to remember that limiting young peoples’ exposure to cigarette ads makes it less likely that they will start smoking.

Big Tobacco spent $9 billion on US advertising in 2011. Most of these marketing dollars go toward point-of-sale displays at convenience stores, pharmacies and bodegas. Such cigarette advertising increases the likelihood that children and adolescents will start smoking, according to a 2007 study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Weekly convenience-store visits are a ritual for 70 percent of teens, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This gives them major exposure to cigarette advertising. Teens who make more than two visits a week are 64 percent more likely to start smoking within the next 12 months than peers who visit convenience stores less than once a week.

“Anti-Smoking” Cigarette Advertising

Tobacco-control advocates believe that even cigarette companies’ anti-smoking communications are designed to promote smoking, reports the Institute of Medicine. Tobacco firms use industry surveys not only to access adolescents and their decision-making processes, but also to establish early brand recognition with potential smokers.

Whether reinforced through cigarette advertising or anti-smoking communications, such brand recognition profits Big Tobaco for many years. Almost all regular smokers (90%) start their habit by age 18, says the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK). Every day, nearly 1,000 young people become daily smokers. And while 3,500 kids try cigarettes for the first time every day, hardly anyone first tries them as adults, according to TFK. The organization based its calculations on data from the US Surgeon General and two federal health agencies.

The best defense against cigarette addiction is to stop the habit before it starts. Supporting tobacco-control measures like high cigarette taxes and smoke-free environments helps to reduce the number of young people who start smoking. So does developing bans on point-of-sale cigarette advertising.

Find free help with quitting cigars, cigarettes or smokeless tobacco at the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control.

Topics: News

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