While we like to keep things non-pitchey around here, sometimes opportunities arise that seem fitting to share. This is one of those times. I was recently approached by Seen Enough Tobacco / TobaccoFreeNYS.org to highlight a growing concern in New York regarding tobacco use and marketing, and while I originally intended to decline, after reading through the information, I felt compelled to share the facts.
According to Tobacco Free NYS, the average age of a new smoker is 13 years old. Thirteen. That’s your average 7th or 8th grader, and a solid five years younger than the legal smoking age in New York. So how and why are these children feeling compelled to take up this “nasty habit” of smoking? It turns out, the tobacco industry purposefully targets adolescents in their marketing.
Here are a couple not-so-fun facts from Tobacco Free NYS:
- The U.S. tobacco industry spent an estimated $9.5 billion on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in 2013. This includes nearly $220 million annually in New York State, or nearly $602,000 a day.
- 5.6 million children under the age of 18 who are alive today will die prematurely as a result of smoking, including 280,000 children in New York State alone.
As a marketing professional myself, I learned a lot about ethics in my college courses. One professor my senior year at Buffalo State asked the class a rather straight-forward question: If you were presented with an opportunity to work for a corporation or brand that was detrimental to others’ health, would you take the position? For me, the answer was a clear “No,” but there were discussions from the students in class that although they would be intentionally marketing to others for products that might not be stellar, ultimately the consumer has the choice whether or not to purchase or buy into the messaging.
You could argue this is true in most instances, but when you’re a teenager, every decision is backed by several different factors. To feel “cool” in front of your peers, to look older and more mature, to “fit in” with others, and the list goes on. And as if the prevalence of smoking cigarettes wasn’t already enough, with the popularity of electronic cigarettes and “vapors” in fruity scents and flavors, the desire to try smoking is even higher.
A few more interesting tidbits on the tobacco industry:
- Tobacco companies spend billions to put promotions in stores where kids can see them. Tobacco companies place most of their marketing in stores where 75% of teens shop once per week.
- Stores located near schools contain nearly three times the amount of tobacco promotions. The more kids see tobacco, the more likely they are to start smoking.
- More than 92% of high school students reported awareness of pro-tobacco marketing in 2014.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what you can do to stop this trend in tobacco advertising. Protect your kids from tobacco promotions and join more than 25,000 others throughout New York by pledging your support at www.SeenEnoughTobacco.org.
WRITTEN BY SAMANTHA JO
Samantha is the founder and owner of BuffaloMoms.com. Her friends call her Sam, Sammi, or Sammi Jo. Her two favorite people call her “Mommy.” Follow along with her ramblings on Twitter and Instagram, or on her personal blog, life by the Gills.