‘Hey, Big Tobacco, I’m Not a Replacement Smoker

You may think tobacco companies have stopped marketing their deadly and addictive products to young people, but they haven’t. In fact, Big Tobacco is constantly searching for new ways to make tobacco look appealing, and they’re aiming these tactics at young people like me.

Tobacco companies spend $8.8 billion a year – $1 million every hour – to market their products and much of that advertising is geared toward kids and young adults. Magazines that my friends and I read, like Sports Illustrated, Glamour and Rolling Stone, are filled with slick advertisements for tobacco products. The ads portray smoking as fun, glamorous and sexy.

When I walk into a convenience store, I can easily spot where the tobacco products are located. It’s impossible to miss the ads and discounts that make these products appealing and affordable to kids.

While a federal law banned cigarettes with candy and fruit flavors, this flavor ban doesn’t apply to cigars, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. So tobacco companies market cheap, sweet and colorfully packaged cigars, and e-cigarettes come in thousands of flavors, with names such as “gummy bear” and “cotton candy.”

Speaking of e-cigarettes, youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. E-cigarette marketing threatens to make smoking look glamorous again by using many of the same tactics used to market regular cigarettes:celebrity endorsements, TV and magazine ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts.

I joined the fight against tobacco to spread the message that tobacco use is harmful and to warn my peers about the tobacco industry’s devious marketing tactics. I know firsthand how harmful tobacco can be: My grandmother smoked her first cigarette when she was 11. The addiction ultimately took her life.

Tobacco kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, most of whom – like my grandmother – began smoking as kids. One tobacco industry document even labeled kids “replacement smokers” for those who die from tobacco use.

For more information on Kick Butts Day, visit www.kickbuttsday.org. To learn more about how tobacco companies market their products to kids, visit www.tobaccofreekids.org.

By Magi Linscott