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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. 

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.



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