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Teenage Smoking Essay, Research Paper

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’. (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 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.

326


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