Promoting cigarettes increases teen smoking

August 21, 2008 4:13:16 PM PDT
A sweeping report released Thursday confirms what many suspected for years,: promoting tobacco use on TV and movies causes more teenagers to start smoking. The report was put together by the National Cancer Institute and it comes at a time when efforts to keep young people from picking up cigarettes have stalled.

"I decided to experiment to see if I wanted to start smoking, and I liked it, so I stuck with cigarettes," said Phillip Bednar.

That was four years ago when Bednar was 18. Kawonis Price started smoking at an even younger age. He said he was 13.

Both admit being influenced by friends and by images of smoking in movies and television. And now, extensive research on the smoking habits of young people has been documented in a definitive report released by the National Cancer Institute. It found that tobacco marketing and depictions of smoking in movies promotes youth smoking.

"They are being exposed to enticemetns that i think are woefully inappropriate," said Michael Mark, American Lung Association.

Mark says the tobacco industry uses media outlets to encourage young people to smoke spending billions of dollars on advertising. Mark says the ads target the psychological needs of adolescents.

"The indication is there; I'm suave, I'm debonair, I'm cool," Mark said.

And the study says young people respond to only brief exposure to advertising.

"I watch 'Sex in the City,' and then it's like, 'Oh, to be sophisticated," said Sherry Walker, smoker.

The report also said that anti-smoking ads work to reduce smoking among young people. But smoking prevention campaigns sponsored by the tobacco industry have been generally ineffective. Some experts say the truth campaign has been one of the most successful strategies to discourage kids from smoking.

"It encourages young people to rebel against the tobacco industry as a form of rebellion, as opposed to smoking," said Dr. Cheryl Healton, American Legacy Foundation.

The government is considering a bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products and to restrict tobacco product marketing. It passed in the House and is up for a vote in the Senate.


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