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Teenage Smoking Essay, Research Paper

Smoking in the United States has recently seen a rapid increase in the percentage of teenagers who are picking up the habit. Although still lower than it was in the 1970’s, teen smoking rates are quickly approaching the percentages of the decade. There are multiple factors that have contributed to the surge of teenage smokers, and several suggestions have been made to suppress it.

From 1991 until 1996, the percentages of 12th that were daily smokers rose 20%, 10th graders 45% and 8th graders shot up 44%. According to Graph 2, 63.5% of 12th graders admitted to having ever smoked a cigarette, 34% to smoking one in the last 30 days, and 13% to smoking a half pack or more per day. The factors that caused this sudden eruption of teenage smoking is frequently debated and never settled. Tobacco companies attribute the increase is due to various “social forces” and teenagers’ natural rebellious reactions, that they “enjoy doing something forbidden,” or just because of the taste, to kill time, relieve stress, or stay thin. They feel teens are driven to smoking because of the “increasing efforts to stop them.” However, critics of the tobacco industry ascribe the rise to the companies themselves.

Tobacco companies’ spending climbed from $361 million in 1970 to $4.83 billion in 1994. A large portion of this money is invested in promotions and advertising. Coinciding with merchandise giveaways companies such as Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds was a sharp rise in teen smoking. 30% of teenagers who smoke have acquired merchandise. This has encouraged children to buy cigarettes inn order to obtain such merchandise form tobacco companies. One man said that when he does not buy Camel cigarettes, he feels as if he “wasted money because [he] collects Camel cash,” which are redeemable for Camel products. Also, the use of smoking in movies influences youths to imitate the actors and contribute to smoking as a trend. The image of music and movie starts affect their sense of “cool” and the desire to be “cool” inspires them to follow suit and do the same as their role models.

Various implications have been made to stop the increase of teenage smoking. The Food and Drug Administration and President Clinton have cited the rise in youth smoking as an indication that companies are aiming its marketing at young people and should be banned. Higher taxes on tobacco goods are being demanded in many states, as an increased expense tends to discourage sales to minors. Companies have adopted practices to direct their advertisements toward adults rather than children by using models that are and look over the age of 25. Perhaps the elimination of promotions that involve giveaways or ads that include certain characters would assist in the reduction, however tobacco companies argue that youth smoking is rising in countries where most form of tobacco advertisement has been prohibited.

Teens smoke for a variety of reasons, and there is no one solution to keeping the rate low. However, with the aid of the FDA and the cooperation of tobacco companies, the increase of teen smoking may halt and save millions from early deaths as a result of fatal tobacco-related illnesses.

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