When I went to visit my grandmother in the hospital, she was critically ill. I heard the doctor say that she would have a much better chance of survival if she had not been a smoker most of her life. I made the decision then that I would not smoke. Every day more than 3,000 teenagers become regular smokers. That number translates to more than 1 million teenagers a year. About one third of them will eventually die from a tobacco-related disease. Cigarettes kill more than 400,000 Americans every year. A person who smokes a pack or more of cigarettes each day will live about seven fewer years than a nonsmoker. Further, smoking hurts young people's physical performance and endurance. Smoking in young people can hamper both the rate of lung growth and the level of maximum lung functioning. Young people who regularly smoke cough more, have increased phlegm, and more frequency and severity of respiratory illnesses. The Surgeon General's report found that the younger a person starts smoking cigarettes, the more likely he or she is to become strongly addicted to nicotine.
Almost ninety percent of adult smokers begin smoking at or before age eighteen. Currently, about 4.5 million children ages 12 to 17 are smokers, and teenage smoking is still on the rise. Tobacco companies spend roughly $5 billion each year, which is over $13 million every day, promoting their products. Numerous tobacco industry documents that have recently become public because of lawsuits established which the tobacco industry perceives teenagers as a key market for their products. Because of this perception, the tobacco industry has studied the smoking habits of teenagers and developed advertising campaigns aimed at them. One solution to this advertising problem would be government regulation that would forbid tobacco advertising directed at children, and perhaps even a total ban on all tobacco advertising.
Another cause of the increase in smoking among teenagers is the fact that teens are made to believe that smoking is cool. Our teenage years are a time when we are unsure of ourselves and have a great deal of peer pressure put on us to fit in. The tobacco industry knows this, and bombard teens with advertisements and billboards that encourage smoking. These advertisements and billboards illustrate that if we smoke we will fit in and have more friends. Cigarette advertisers also try to demonstrate that women who smoke are sexy, men are manly, and that smokers have fun and lots of friends. In order to counter all this false advertising, there should be an promotional campaign that portrays the disgusting aspects of smoking. The advertising should show a cigarette hanging out of a woman’s mouth and describe how repugnant the woman smells from the cigarette smoke. Another solution would be to ban all cigarette smoking in movies so that teens are not given the message that if they want to look like a movie star, smoke.