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. 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'.
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 then 20 percent" (Judon, 1997). Thus illustrating that much work must still be done to decrease the number of teen smokers.
Psychologically, tobacco companies target teens through advertisements. This plays an important role in the increase in teenage smokers. Though many teenagers feel as though advertisements have no influence on them, they, in fact, do.
Advertisers are experts at reaching the unconscious of teens. The
unconscious often rejects common sense and allows people to do whatever "feels good" regardless of the consequences. Advertisements emit the impression that more people smoke than actually do. The 'Marlboro Man' and 'Joe Camel' are two of the greatest contributors in tobacco advertisements, and in the rise of teen smokers, because their ads are directed specifically to teenagers. The reason for this is that
advertisements do not tell the truth about smoking, because if they did, tobacco companies would not be as successful as they are today. In Marlboro advertisements for example, the viewer sees a beautiful country
scenes, wild horses galloping and cowboys around a fire or on horseback.
The Camel cigarette advertisements on the other hand, take a different approach in their advertisements. They advertise using a cartoon figure, Joe Camel. This camel is a jock, who wears sunglasses, drives a sports car, plays the
saxophone, and has a girlfriend. The Camel advertisements fail to show what Joe Camel would look like if the advertisers told the truth about smoking.
If the truth were to be told in Camel advertisements, Joe Camel would probably be seen in a hospital bed, with yellow teeth, dying of lung cancer, as he smoked for so many years and smoking is a life threatening habit. The truth about smoking would lead to repulsive advertisements. Psychologically, teens become addicted to the relaxing, familiar sensation of handling a
cigarette, the taste and watching the smoke. (Reynolds, 1999) Also, another important factor is that, more than 50% of adolescents between the ages twelve and thirteen think that there are benefits to smoking such as, being accepted amongst their peers or just "looking cool".
This is due to advertisements targeting and misleading teens. (Neergaard, 1999) Heath activists are accusing the tobacco companies of lying when they say that they do not target teenagers. Much research has been put into cigarette advertisements to prove that they are lying. They aim at snaring teenagers into their trap. To do so, they use role models such as Jacques Villeneuve to aid them. Teenagers see him as a young man driving a fast car, leading a
risky life, yet being very successful.
Conveniently for the tobacco industry, he is sponsored by Rothmans cigarettes. Jacques Villeneuve is looked at as the modern Marlboro Man, as car racing fits the rugged,
individualistic, heroic image of the Marlboro Man (the tobacco industry's greatest salesman). This leaves teens looking up to Jacques Villeneuve even more and teens wanting to be like him. These advertisements also give teenagers the impression that if they smoke the brand of cigarettes advertised on his helmet, they will end up being just like him. (Scott, 1997) Another psychological factor involved in the increase in teenaged smoking is that female teenagers consider smoking a relaxing and an enjoyable substitute for eating. These females smoke in order to be thin, and are concerned that if they gave up smoking, they would eat more, and would therefore gain weight.
This fact led to overweight female smoking more and
more. (Barnaby, 1997) The factor that increases female smoking; to stay thin, is also the leading reason that more females smoke than males do. Smoking is appeared as socially acceptable in advertisements. From 1988 to 1996, there was a jump in teen smokers. The reason for this was that during these years, there was an increase in smoking in films and television shows and also an increase in cigarette advertisements with the introduction of the Joe Camel character all targeting youths. Camel campaigns utilized "peer acceptance and influence" to motivate the youth audience to take up smoking.
(Scott, 1997) The main sociological reason for teens to start smoking though is that is perceived to be something that is considered 'fun' or as something for teens to do while they are together. (Barnaby, 1997) The increase in teen smokers is due to the fact that the government has not yet succeeded in convincing teens about the dangers and risks involved in smoking. (Toupin, 2000)
Family life also plays an important role in the increase in teen smokers. When a teenager witnesses their parents or family members smoking, they often assume that they too are allowed to become smokers.
This shows just how large the influence that parents have on their children. Among teenagers, there is a great deal of influence between them, and therefore, the most important influence on them to stop smoking must come from other young people. Statistics that have to do with parent smoking and the use of cigarettes at home show that 46% of teens end up being smokers themselves. Cigarette smoking is of interest to the National Institute on Drug Abuse both because of the public health problems associated with this form of substance abuse and because this behavior represents a prototypic dependence process.
In the past few years the U.S. government has made every effort to reach the masses, in an attempt to curb the exploitation of tobacco use, and its acceptance among Americas Youth. The premise that the behavior of adolescents is influenced by the behavior of their parents is central to many considerations of health and social behavior. Many teenagers begin smoking to feel grow-up. However, if they are
still smoking when they reach 30, the reason is no longer to feel like an adult; at this point, they are smoking from habit.
Goodwin, D. W., Guze, S. B. (1984).
Young children who see older children or family members smoking cigarettes are going to equate smoking with being grown up. Patterns of both drinking and smoking, which are closely associated, are strongly influenced by the lifestyles of family members peers and by the environments in which they live. Minimal, moderate, and heavy levels of
drinking, smoking, and drug use, among family members are strongly associated with very similar patterns of use among adolescents.
To conclude, one can look economically at the cost of cigarettes, the accessibility of cigarettes, and the amount of money put into advertisements for tobacco.
Also psychologically at the effects and real meaning of ads and at females ideas and misconceptions about smoking. And, finally sociologically, peer and family influence play a huge role in the increase of teen smokers.
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