When you ask people why kids start smoking, most say the same things: peer pressure or having a parent or other family member who smokes. While those factors do have an impact, they are not the main influence. Believe it or not, research shows that kids’ exposure to tobacco marketing is a primary reason why kids start smoking.
You probably don’t even notice how often your kids are exposed. Think about it: every time your child visits a convenience store, a grocery store or a pharmacy they are likely to spend some time waiting in line at the counter. In their line of sight – usually right by the candy, in the same colorful packaging – are rows of tobacco products and ads. Subconsciously, those ads have an impact.
We would like to believe that our kids are not so impressionable that they will be influenced by ads, but research shows that the ads matter. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year to design and display ads that have a strong visual and mental impact on youth – and it works. The ads influence kids’ beliefs about how popular, accessible and socially acceptable tobacco products are. Kids who shop at convenience stores filled with tobacco ads are twice as likely to start smoking.
What can concerned parents do? Get involved with Tobacco Free Onondaga County’s campaign to reduce tobacco marketing in stores. You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @TFreeOnondaga, or sign up for our e-newsletter. Visit us online or call 435-3280 to learn more.
Mary Carney is a Public Health Educator that works with Tobacco Free Onondaga County, a program that aims to prevent and reduce tobacco use. She has a Master of Public Health and Community Health Education Specialist certification and works at the Onondaga County Health Department. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.