Back to School and Tobacco-Free
Protecting kids from the tobacco industry’s products and marketing
Posted by: Editor | Sep 6, 2012
The backpacks have been aired out, the supplies purchased, pencils sharpened, and the kids are now back to school. With young people being away from home and parental supervision, however, moms and dads need to be vigilant.
Recent reports remind us that even as we make progress in reducing smoking, the tobacco companies continue to target our kids:
- Tobacco companies spend $10.5 billion a year – nearly $29 million each day – to market their deadly and addictive products. Big Tobacco currently spends most of its marketing budget in convenience stores and other retail outlets, where cigarettes and other tobacco products are advertised heavily, displayed prominently and priced cheaply to appeal to kids. This marketing effectively reaches teens, two-thirds of whom visit a convenience store at least one a week.
- To offset declines in cigarette smoking, tobacco companies are marketing a smorgasbord of cigar products– called little cigars, cigarillos and blunts – that have sweet flavors, cheap prices and colorful packaging. Sweet, cheap and colorful lures kids. A recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) showed a significant increase in cigar smoking among African-American high school students from 2009 to 2011 (from 7.1 percent to 11.7 percent). Among high school boys, 15.7 percent smoke cigars, a rate that hasn’t budged in recent years.
- Tobacco companies have increased marketing of smokeless tobacco products and introduced new products that look, taste and are packaged like candy. In addition to marketing traditional chewing tobacco in kid-friendly flavors such as cherry, apple and citrus, the companies have introduced new dissolvable and easily concealed tobacco products – called sticks, strips and orbs – that look like mints, breath strips and toothpicks.
One Grand Junction, Colorado, television news report really nailed the problem: Too many tobacco products that look like mint, gum or candy. As the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ own Danny McGoldrick writes,"there may be more ways for kids to get addicted to nicotine today than ever before."
There’s a lot that elected officials and parents can do to help kids be tobacco-free.
Elected officials should support proven strategies: higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention programs, strong smoke-free laws and effective regulation of tobacco products and marketing.
In addition to urging support for such policies, parents can set the right example for kids through words, deeds and the values they communicate. Actions parents can take include:
- If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit. Free help is available at 1-800-QUIT NOW or www.smokefree.gov.
- Whether or not you smoke, make sure your home and cars are smoke-free, that you and others don’t smoke in front of your kids and avoid places that allow smoking. These actions make a powerful statement that smoking is harmful and undesirable.
- Give your kids the facts about smoking and emphasize both long-term and immediate health effects. While many kids think smoking doesn’t affect health until middle age, in reality it can have immediate effects, including persistent coughs, respiratory problems and decreased physical performance.
- Educate your kids about the role of the tobacco industry. Help your kids understand the tobacco industry’s role in marketing a product that addicts and kills – and that they are the target. Communicate the message that most people DO NOT smoke.
Learn more about what parents can do from our fact sheet and from the CDC article “Protecting Your Children from Tobacco Use.”