Teen Smoking is Bad

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Deaths caused by smoking have reached epidemic proportions. In the United States alone, 430,000 people die annually from smoking-related illnesses such as cancers and lung disease. Stephen Jay, chair of the Department of Public Health at Indiana University School of Medicine, states that tobacco’s “human toll far exceeds the Black Death of the 14th century, the global influenza pandemic of 1918–19, and the modern tragedy of HIV-AIDS.” Health care advocates, concerned about tobacco-related deaths and illnesses, have worked tirelessly to discourage cigarette smoking in the United States through education campaigns that warn the public about the potential health dangers of tobacco use. A particular target for these antismoking messages is teen smokers. According to 2001 data collected by the American Cancer Society, teen smoking rates have gradually decreased since their rapid rise throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s. Despite this encouraging decrease in the number of teen smokers, however, approximately three thousand teens still start smoking each day. One-third of these teens will die prematurely of a smoking-related disease. One hotly debated issue in the effort to prevent teen smoking is the role that tobacco industry advertisements play in influencing teens’ decisions to begin smoking. Health care professionals view the tobacco industry— often referred to as “Big Tobacco”—as a rich, adversarial force to be reckoned with. In 2002, for example, the United States spent approximately $800 million on various tobacco-control initiatives, including antismoking campaigns aimed at teen smokers. Big Tobacco, however, spent nearly $8 billion on tobacco marketing. Such aggressive tobacco marketing is worrisome to those worki... ... middle of paper ... ...s if specified reductions in underage tobacco use are not met.” Tobacco advertising is not the only issue affecting teen smoking Despite the Master Settlement Agreement and the ensuing ban on advertising tobacco products to youths, many antismoking groups today maintain that Big Tobacco is still continuing to promote smoking to teens and children through the sponsorship of sporting events and concerts, advertisements in magazines that are geared toward eighteen- to twenty-four- year-olds but are often read by younger readers, and product placements in films rated as low as “G” for young viewers. Other antismoking advocates, however, contend that the role of cigarette advertising in influencing teen smokers has been overestimated and that antismoking campaigns should instead focus on other factors that encourage teen smoking, such as peer or parental influences.

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