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WE NEED FOR TOUGHER LAWS AGAINST THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY Tobacco Advertising Makes Young People Their Chief Target Every day 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,3). Of the one million US teens that become hooked on cigarettes each year, one-third or more will eventually die from tobacco-related illnesses. If current trends continue, over 200 million of today’s children and teenagers around the world will lose their lives to this addictive product (Roberts,23). The cigarette manufacturers may deny it, but advertising and promotion play a vital part in making these facts a reality. Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds Nabisco and the other tobacco companies spend on average $5 billion annually in the US alone to advertise and promote their products. Most of this promotion is aimed at children, something the FDA has recognized and taken action to prevent(Breo,56). The kings of these media ploys are Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds. Morris uses a fictional western character called The Marlboro Man, a wild and free cowboy, while Reynolds uses Joe Camel, a high-rolling, swinging cartoon character. Joe Camel, the “smooth character” from RJ Reynolds, who is shown as a dromedary with complete style has been attacked by Tobacco-Free Kids 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. (Cigaret manufacturers) have to know that their ads are influencing the youth under 18 to begin smoking”(Breo,34). Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia report that almost as many 6-year olds recognize Joe Camel as well as the far-famed Mickey Mouse (Breo,61). This is very shocking information for any parent to hear. These statistics clearly show that young people are the prime target in the tobacco wars. The industry denies that these symbols do not target any 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,74). 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 on the issue of smoking 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 and they also wanted to reach out and rebel at the same time(Roberts, 34). ” When you party, 75 to 90 percent of the kids are smoking. It makes you feel like you belong,” says Ronald Coe, a freshman at Lawrence Central High School. 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,34). 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? One reason may be that the ads are everywhere, especially in teen-oriented magazines, such as Rolling Stone and Spin(Selling). The ads also fuel some of the reasons the children gave for starting. They represent rebellion, independence, acceptance and happiness. These are all things a young person, between childhood and adolescence, needs and desires. Many experts believe this type of advertising, on top of peer pressure, is the mystery behind the rise in adolescent smoking(Selling). How do we stop the future generations of America from smoking? Here are four things that the experts recommend: 1) Try to convince your children that smoking is not cool and give them reasons not to start, 2)Talk to your kids at a young age about the dangers of smoking, 3)Identify family members who smoke and ask/help them to stop, 4) Give them ideas or alternatives to smoking like playing sports or working on a hobby (Thomas,46).

The tobacco industry provides one of the clearest cases of corporate influence drowning out the public’s voice. Tobacco is a key crop in just six US states, but the tobacco industry’s power is entrenched in every state as well as in Washington, DC. Until 1983, the tobacco lobby had never lost a battle in Congress. Measures that appeared to rein in the industry were actually shaped in large part by Big Tobacco to avoid more serious regulations. Of some 174 pieces of federal public health legislation bills introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s, only two passed(Roberts,101). The real successes has occurred at the local level. Up until the Food and Drug Administration action in mid-1996, nothing significant had been done to curb the promotion of this extremely addictive product to children. The closer the voters are to the issue and the more power they have over it, the less successful the tobacco lobby has been in fighting off regulations. For this reason, the tobacco industry has pushed for preemption taking away people’s power to enact local ordinances more restrictive than the state or federal standard(Breo,76). The tobacco industry is working with key political allies and some attorneys general to broker a legislative deal that would limit corporate liability in civil lawsuits and eliminate FDA regulation. The tobacco industry even sued the FDA to prevent regulation of tobacco in 1997. The judge in the case was a former tobacco lobbyist, and RJ Reynolds’ lawyer, Richard Cooper, is former general counsel of the FDA, with insider knowledge of the agency and credibility with his former colleagues. In 1996 there was a flood of internal industry documents revealing just how much, and for how long, the tobacco giants have known about the addictiveness of nicotine and the lengths to which they have gone to conceal the facts. The industry has conspired at least since 1964 to hold off lawsuits and regulations. More than 20 states are currently suing the tobacco industry to recover some of the medical costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses(Bill). 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. We need to create laws that will regulate tobacco companies would help protect young people from the dangers of smoking and big tobacco companies who only see our youth, and people who already smoke, as “potential smokers” or “money makers.” This would send two very important messages to tobacco companies: (1)that it is wrong to get anyone, let alone our young and underage citizenry, to smoke because tobacco can and does kill or severely hurt people and (2)that people are not just “potential money makers,” they are human beings who have the right to a healthy life and deserve to live that life free of tobacco-related illness. These laws/restrictions are important to us as both a society and a civilization because we would be helping to protect many, many people in ours and future generations from the malice of the tobacco industry and deadly diseases like cancer and harmful conditions like asthma and emphysema.

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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