There is a killer in our communities hiding in plain sight! Tobacco kills more New Yorkers each year than AIDS, drugs, homicide and suicide combined according to the Department of Health Statistics.
The youth of Queens are under attack from tobacco companies’ advertising and propaganda designed to ensure a continued supply of future tobacco consumers. Tobacco companies spend $12.5 billion annually — 90 percent of that is spent on marketing. Tobacco companies have turned to point-of-sale advertising by plastering stores with highly lit displays and bright ads specifically designed to target young teens. What is the answer to this? How do we fight against companies with such large amounts of money at their disposal? The answer is to start talking.
To get the conversation started, in October 2011 the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City and the American Lung Association in New York partnered with a group of youths from all five boroughs to provide a tour for decision makers of tobacco advertising in their neighborhoods. This tour provided decision makers with a chance to see the advertising through the youths’ eyes and to walk in their shoes — looking at the images they see every day as they walk through their neighborhoods. Research studies show that tobacco marketing does influence a teen’s decision to smoke. Seventeen thousand youths in New York City are currently smoking, and roughly a third of these children will die prematurely from smoking.
Parents should be encouraged to talk to their children about what the ads are trying to accomplish, talk to policymakers about limiting advertising rights for tobacco companies and start talking to your local businesses that place these ads in plain sight of young children. We need to get our message across: It’s not just a bad habit — it’s a deadly habit. We all have a part to play in keeping our nation’s youth safe. Let’s all join efforts spearheaded by Mayor Bloomberg and countless public health organizations to put the health of our children ahead of the bottom line of the tobacco industry.