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The haunting truth: Kids are tricked into smoking

by jmaloni
Wed, Oct 31st 2012 07:00 am

Teen smoking is no treat

by the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition

The Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition is raising awareness during this Halloween season, calling attention to the tactics used by the tobacco industry. Area young people are tricked into smoking for the promised treat of being cool or glamorous, but left with a nicotine addiction and ill health that haunts many for a lifetime.

The 2012 U.S. Surgeon General's report, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults," concluded that tobacco industry marketing causes youth tobacco use. Research shows that kids see and respond to tobacco marketing messages in stores that adults don't notice. The result of all this marketing is more than 22,000 New York state kids under the age of 18 become new daily smokers each year.

"We know that if we don't start smoking, the tobacco industry won't have replacement customers," said Kevin Murray, a senior at Sweet Home High School and student representative for the Sweet Home Central School District Board of Education. "We want students to recognize and reject the deceptive tricks used to market deadly products in stores."

"We're working to inform Western New Yorkers about the consequences of the excessive amount of tobacco marketing in our area," said Anthony Billoni, director of the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition. "Studies demonstrate that adults are concerned about the impact of tobacco promotions, yet underestimate how much of it kids are exposed to every time they walk into a convenience store. As parents and community members, we must raise the level of awareness and work together to protect our children."

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the tobacco industry spends $1 million a day in New York to market its deadly products in stores. At almost every convenience store in New York, kids are inundated with colorful tobacco displays surrounding the cash registers and tempted by cigarettes in candy-colored packages. Retailers are paid to display tobacco products in these highly visible locations where youth are continually exposed. Licensed tobacco retailers in New York display an average of 18 ads per store and more than 82 percent of retailers dedicate 50 percent or more of the merchandising space behind the counter to openly visible tobacco products.

"Halloween provides an opportunity to inform and education about the dangers of retail tobacco marketing," Billoni said. "Reducing the number of tobacco retailers or covering up the ubiquitous display of tobacco will help reduce the rate of youth smoking."

The Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition, established in 1993 and located at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, is a member of the New York State Tobacco Control Program. The coalition is dedicated to reducing the risk of cancer, heart, lung and other tobacco-related diseases in Erie and Niagara counties by decreasing tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke.

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