Participants are required to submit assignments throughout the Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention online course, and this year we have been fortunate to have some outstanding submissions. Tracy N. from Broward County recently submitted her assignment for Media and Marketing, and we would love to share it with you.
Tobacco Companies Are Addicted To Underage Smoking
There are many ways to describe a child. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines child as “a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. Research has proven that children go through stages of social development and are not able to make serious decisions before the age of 18. Generally, children have fewer rights than adults and a lower maturity level. Tobacco companies have done their research and use these facts to lure children into the tobacco market.
It is a proven fact that the tobacco industry spends approximately $34 million dollars a day to advertise their product. Tobacco is one of the most heavily marketed products. To purchase tobacco products you have to be an adult (at least 18 years of age), however, tobacco advertising is not solely directed toward the adult consumer. Why you ask? Because of the addictive ingredients in tobacco, tobacco marketing targets youth who are immature and impressionable. Tobacco companies have learned that luring children to use tobacco products at an early age most likely guarantees a long term adult consumer.
Tobacco companies place ads in store locations that are more prone to be seen by children. For example, the next time you walk into a convenient store, notice the eye level of tobacco advertisements on the entry doors. The average adult male is 5 feet 9 inches and the average adult female is 5 feet 4 inches. Why then would tobacco companies place advertisements at or below three feet? According to Tobacco Company Marketing there are many more marketing efforts directly aimed to reach kids.
To begin with, many companies have internal documents revealed in lawsuits that show tobacco companies have targeted children as young as 13 with the hope that this age group will develop unbreakable habits and become future consumers. Excerpts of quotes by some of the large tobacco companies report the following: Phillip Morris – “Todays teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer…” RJ Reynolds – “Evidence is now available to indicate that the 14-18 year old group is an increasing segment of the smoking population.” and Lorillard Tobacco – “The base of our business is the high school student.”
Secondly, tobacco companies advertise near schools and playgrounds. The advertisements are large and highly visible from outside the store. It has been reported that tobacco companies use themes and messages that resonate with youth. Smoking advertisements often suggest popularity, attractiveness and risk taking. All are behaviors that target children ages 13-17. A 2002 survey in a California community found that stores where adolescents shop have three times more cigarette advertisements compared to other stores in the community.
Lastly, a Sun-Sentinel article reported fruit flavored tobacco products for sale behind the counter at convenience stores are used to target kids. It is clearly arguable that candy flavors and candy-like packaging is meant to attract children not adults. Children connect candy with enjoyable flavors and something they get as a reward. Tobacco companies create flavors that children will like, hoping they will become addicted at an earlier age. By the time they reach the age of adulthood, the addiction will be more important than the flavor.
In conclusion, it has been proven that ninety percent of all regular smokers began smoking at or before the age of 18. If kids stopped smoking, the tobacco companies would lose their major market and sales would plummet. It’s no wonder tobacco companies are addicted to underage smoking.