I was originally planning on celebrating “Atheist Pride Day”, but upon researching the purpose of Kick Butts Day I felt that I couldn’t go past it. Unlike its playful title may suggest, Kick Butts Day is extremely serious. It’s about the serious problem of tobacco consumption in young people and about urging the youth to speak out against “Big Tobacco”. The campaign appeared to be saying that tobacco companies were targeting children. I imagined shady cigarette dealers on street corners, whispering lies into the ears of children about the wonders of tobacco, because in my ignorance, I assumed that, like my own country, tobacco advertising was banned.
In Australia, you cannot advertise cigarettes. This has been the case since 1990, when advertising was banned in all forms: television, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards, sponsorship or anything else you could think of, not including incidental advertising (where no one receives any benefit from the advertising). In the U.S. however, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the tobacco companies spend $8.5billion a year advertising their products. There are restrictions on this advertising, differing from state to state, but the fact that the companies can even spend money on advertising is a problem. And it’s not a question of whether or not the advertising works – it very clearly does. Among youth smokers in the U.S., 85.5% of them prefer the cigarette brands that are highly advertised.
You can also buy fruit and candy flavoured cigarettes. In Australia, the sale of such products was agreed to be banned by the Health Ministers in 2008 and there are similar restrictions in Britain and Canada. People in the U.S. can also buy tobacco products that don’t look like tobacco: they look like breath mints, small teabags and strangely, pocky. But they are still just as dangerous but are much, much easier for minors to hide. If you emptied a mint box and replaced the contents with these tobacco products, no one would give you a second glance.
The percentage of youth smokers (those who admitted in a survey to having smoked in the past month) in the U.S. is falling: from 36.4% in 1997 to 18.1% currently. Obviously there is still a long way to go. 18.1% is almost 1 in 5 high school students. In Australia the percentage is less again, at 7.25% of secondary school students (it should be taken into consideration that it is much higher at the older end, at 14.5% of 17 year-olds. Up until age 16 that percentage is not higher than 8%.). The difference between Australia and the U.S. is the legislation in regards to tobacco (there is probably a difference socially as well, but that could very well be the effect of advertising and general exposure).
I believe the U.S. should follow other countries lead and get rid of advertising altogether. In the past decade Australia introduced compulsory health warning, with accompanying gruesome pictures of the consequences to all cigarette packaging and recently changed packaging completely – as of 2013, all cigarette packages are plain olive green with large gruesome pictures of the consequence of smoking on them. All tobacco products are also kept behind plain, opaque cabinets at all times.
Smoking should be wiped out. I can’t think of anyone arguing that smoking is good thing. It’s been proven to be addicted, harmful and well, it’s also pretty disgusting. The Tobacco Free Kids website has a section with links on how you can take action, with information on what’s happening in each state and how you can get on board to make a positive change: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/take_action/
Tobacco and Young People:
Kick Butts Day Official: