This post was sponsored by Tobacco Free New York State as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
We have seen enough tobacco! I talked to my three young adult children to get their perspective on smoking and how to keep kids from starting so we can have a Tobacco Free New York. Find out what I learned and why e-cigarettes are a huge and growing issue.
My three children have always heard us talk about the dangers of smoking. As they grew up we gave them a strong message that smoking was bad for you, addictive and unacceptable. It is very important to teach children about the dangers of smoking when they are still young. Most people who become smokers start when they are still teenagers – in fact the average age of a new smoker in New York State is 13 years old. So the anti-smoking message needs to start very early.
My kids are young adults now and my youngest just turned twenty so I don’t have any teenagers any more. None of them are smokers, so I decided it would be a good time to talk to them and find out what was effective in convincing them smoking was a bad idea, what worked, what didn’t and how they feel about smoking. It was very enlightening to talk to them and I learned one thing for sure:
E-cigarettes Have Become a Huge Issue
The difference between the experiences of my 26 year old daughter, who doesn’t recall ever seeing any friends vape, and my 20 year old son who sees kids do it constantly was stark and obvious. And statistics bear this difference out. From 2014-2018 e-cigarette use grew 160% among high school students.
Vaping has exploded in popularity. And my son says that the kids he knows who vape do it all the time. It is not just a social thing at parties but they vape in the car, on the way to class and even at sports practices. The e-cigarettes are very small and easy to carry around, so they are around all the time. Clearly children need more information on the dangers of e-cigarettes. These contain nicotine and are just as addictive as cigarettes. Maybe even more addictive!
And if you look at how e-cigarettes are being marketed their popularity among teens is not surprising. I visited some local gas stations and convenience stores to look at how they are selling tobacco products and they are clearly targeting children, especially for e-cigarettes. There were large cases full of brightly colored bottles of vape juice with names designed specifically to appeal to kids. One was a hot pink bottle with the name “Birthday Cake” and confetti on the bottle. There are ones with names like “Blue Slushee” and “Gummie Bear”. They aren’t even trying to hide the fact they are targeting these towards children!
Tobacco Advertising is Effective
Lots of people think just because you don’t see cigarette commercials on TV that tobacco advertising isn’t an issue. This could not be further from the truth. Tobacco companies put a huge amount of money into marketing their products. Shockingly the tobacco industry spends over half a million dollars in New York State to market its products every day. Not every year or even every month but every day! Tobacco ads don’t run on TV and have some restrictions, but that just means that advertisers have become more clever in their marketing attempts.
One of the largest places that money goes is advertising at the convenience stores and gas stations where tobacco is sold. Now as a middle aged woman who has never smoked I tend to look right past these advertisements. But kids notice them, and 75% of teens shop at a convenience store once a week. That means these brightly colored and attractive tobacco products and ads are right in their faces, at eye level, behind the registers and on the counters next to the registers.
Bright colors, large signs and artfully arranged cigarette displays in stores attract children. And the closer the stores are to a school the larger the advertisements are likely to be. When I checked local gas stations I found this to be true – the gas station that is within walking distance of the high school had twice as many tobacco products as the one that is in the business district. Is this a coincidence? No, of course not, tobacco companies know what they are doing.
What Can You Do?
Our kids future and health is too important not to take action. Here are the things that you can do to help.
Set a Good Example
This is still the most important thing. When I asked my kids why they hadn’t tried smoking they all answered the same thing, that they had never been around smoking growing up and it something they rarely saw. So if you smoke, get the help that you need to quit, for yourself and your children.
Talk to Your Children
You need to talk directly and honestly to your children about the dangers of smoking. Dangers like addiction and cancer are important to discuss but don’t forget to mention the smaller stuff that might mean more to teens. Yellow teeth and smelly clothes are very unattractive. My daughters used words like, “yucky”, “nasty” and “gross” to describe smoking, so encourage these kind of negative associations.
Another big drawback to mention is how expensive smoking is. My oldest daughter worked in a drug store in high school and seeing how much money other people wasted on tobacco products made a big impression on her.
Specifically Talk About E-Cigarettes
If you have children over the age of about ten they are aware of e-cigarettes, perhaps more aware than you are. Sadly popular culture is portraying these as cool right now. Just last month a popular young star from Game of Thrones posted an Instagram photo of herself vaping in costume, on the set of this TV show. This sends a terrible message to impressionable children and parents are the ones who have to counter that message.
So make sure your children know these are tobacco products and are addictive. Make sure they know that these products are being marketed directly towards them by companies who want them to become addicted and become life long tobacco consumers. Role play with them what they should do when someone offers them an e-cigarette and asks if they’d like to try it – because that will happen. Teens today see e-cigarettes as more socially acceptable than regular cigarettes, so make sure your children know the facts and aren’t taken in by brightly colored bottles with cute names.
Take the Seen Enough Tobacco Pledge
Tobacco Free New York is working to educate parents and children on the dangers of smoking and e-cigarettes. The especially want to reduce in store advertising and displays that make tobacco products attractive to children. Visit their website and sign their pledge to show your support. And remember this is not just a problem in New York, it is a problem everywhere. Find out how to educate your children and keep them tobacco free!
Visit Tobacco Free New York today!