There is some scary stuff out there and we aren’t talking Halloween; it’s tobacco marketing and advertising hiding in plain sight. Adults may not notice it, but your kids see it every day as Big Tobacco tries to lure them in as replacement smokers, costuming the products in bright packaging and disguising the dangers with candy and fruit flavors. Reality Check, a youth led movement against the marketing practices of Big Tobacco in New York, and Tobacco Free New York State declared Friday the 13th as Seen Enough Tobacco Day to highlight this problem. With all the information out there, we need to be scared for our kids.
Tobacco advertising restrictions were signed into law in 1971 and 2009 in order to protect overall public health; however, the laws have just moved the advertising from the screen and into the point of sale. Drive into any convenience gas store and you can see advertising on the pumps, windows and along the property. Go inside and it is like carnival of signage and a kaleidoscope of color as tobacco competes with soft drinks, food and candy for shelf space and your attention, like in the picture on the left. The tobacco industry claims they market to adults, but displays are often surrounded by candy and advertising is at a child’s eye level.
According to the Seenenoughtobacco.org site, the average age for a new smoker in New York State is 13 years old. These kids are five years away from being legal age at 18 and eight years away from the Tobacco 21 laws in the 16 counties, cities and municipalities in New York that have raised the age. How are they getting tobacco? And New York isn’t unique to the teens having access to tobacco. Florida boasts one of the lowest teen smoking rate in the nation at 6.9% but it still means easy access. And cheap prices aren’t helping.
Cheap flavored little cigars are easy to find and extremely affordable for teens and are just one form of tobacco that is easy to come by. While they are marketed, taxed and sold as cigars, they are highly flavored and many could pass as filtered flavored cigarettes that are banned in the U.S. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services website, 60% of middle and high school students who used tobacco products in 2014 smoked flavored little cigars.
What can we do about all this? Education is the key. The American public needs to educated about the tactics of the tobacco industry, as well as the health-related illnesses and number of deaths caused by tobacco. Comprehensive tobacco education needs to take place in schools so that every child is reached. According to the 2015 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, only 26.6% of high school students said they received tobacco education in schools, yet every teacher in Florida’s public, private and charter school system has the opportunity to take the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course and teach tobacco prevention to their K-12 students for credits to renew their teaching certificate.
Protecting our kids from tobacco now means fewer adults using tobacco later and fewer tobacco-related health illnesses and deaths in the future. How much is the health of our future generation worth?
Click HERE for the SeenEnoughTobacco.org site