Nicotine: Fact or fiction
Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 1:20 pm
Adolescents have a clear idea of the risks of tobacco use.
Fiction. Studies indicate that adolescents underestimate the risks of tobacco use (including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigars) and believe its practice to be more widespread and more socially accepted than it actually is. A study released in 2001 shows that 43% of eighth graders do not think there is a great risk associated with smoking one pack of cigarettes per day. This lack of awareness is due in part to the continuing efforts of the tobacco industry to convey an image that sophisticated, active, confident, sexy, athletic, beautiful people smoke. These characteristics were embodied in the macho “Marlboro Man” and attractive “Virginia Slims” models. When adolescents are informed of the common tactics used to induce them to buy certain products, they become very skilled at pinpointing advertisements that are targeted at them. They realize the attractive actors in tobacco advertisements more closely resemble people who do not smoke.
A 1993 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that children as young as three years old recognized Old Joe Camel, a cartoon character used to promote Camel cigarettes. Even though tobacco advertisements have not been allowed on TV or radio since 1971, and even though these children could not read, they recognized the character from print media or billboards. The Joe Camel campaign was discontinued in 1997 following a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission that it was inducing minors to smoke.