Teenage Smoking

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.

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(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.

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