The most important thing you can do is talk to your kids about the way the tobacco industry targets them by making its products cheap, sweet, and easy to get.
Adolescents’ brains are still developing. The nicotine in tobacco products can produce structural and chemical changes in the developing brain and may lead to future alcohol and other drug addiction, panic attacks, and depression. Because of the way nicotine changes the adolescent brain, people who start smoking as adolescents smoke more and have a harder time quitting than people who start as adults.
The reason the tobacco industry targets young people is very straightforward: nine out of ten smokers started by age 18 and 99% started by age 26. [i] So if people don’t start using tobacco or other nicotine products when they’re young, they probably never will. And to a tobacco company, that’s a lost customer.
Your kids know a lot about the tobacco industry and its tactics, but they need you to help them figure out what it means in the big picture. Ask your kids what they see when they go to corner stores and gas stations. Ask them what they think and how they feel. Have a thoughtful conversation about how the tobacco companies are trying to hook young people on tobacco so they can have a new generation of lifelong customers.
Here are some questions you can ask your child to help them think critically about tobacco marketing:
- What tactics is the tobacco industry using to attract kids’ attention? e.g. various flavors, price, availability.
- Why is the tobacco industry using its tactics to sell its products to kids? e.g. To get people addicted at a young age and ensure they will keep buying for years to come.
- What message is the industry trying to send? e.g. This product is fun, hip, and tasty. Buying this product will help you be the person you want to be.
- Is that message true? And what’s the real reason the companies are selling their product?
Check out some of these resources on other ways you can talk to them about smoking and using tobacco:
[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012.