How many more years of illness and death from smoking-related diseases must we endure before true change takes place?
Today, Friday, May 31, join the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition, community leaders, health advocates, co-workers, neighbors, friends and family in declaring “we’ve seen enough” on World No Tobacco Day. The event is sponsored annually by the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization is focusing this year’s message on the need to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
It’s not a moment too soon.
Youth smoking remains a significant problem in New York State, where more than 100,000 high school students smoke and 22,500 kids under the age of 18 become new daily smokers each year.
How can this still be occurring after years of education and public awareness programs? Peer pressure of course still exists. But tobacco promotion in stores is a cause of youth smoking. Tobacco displays in stores show kids that tobacco is accessible, and worse, using tobacco is acceptable.
Research has shown that the more tobacco marketing kids see, the more likely they are to use tobacco. Communities are eager to protect kids from dangerous influences. So why do we allow the tobacco industry to wallpaper our local stores with flashy promotions and large tobacco displays?
I recently spoke with some students, and Michael Khan, a Junior at Canisius High School and a member of the Amherst Youth Consortium, told me there are still too many stores where he and his fellow students can walk in and see tobacco promotions. “We don’t need to be bombarded with all these unhealthy messages,” he said.
In Amherst, there is support from youth leaders including Craig Schmidt, co-president of the Williamsville East High School PTSA. Schmidt told me that his community, which supports a caring, healthy environment, finds the quantity of tobacco marketing to be unacceptable.
Here at Roswell Park, Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior, is a nationally recognized expert in tobacco control research. According to Dr. Hyland, the companies have focused their energy and resources to hook young people on tobacco so that they will have a next generation of smokers.
Unless we all let our voices be heard at the highest levels, the cycle is bound to continue. More children and teens will get addicted. And more will get sick and eventually die from tobacco-related illnesses.
So raise your voice and join us. We can make a difference by consistently telling decision makers that tobacco promotions in local stores will no longer be tolerated.
Let’s not allow one more generation of youth to become tobacco users. We have learned our lessons from research and history. By having our kids encounter less tobacco marketing each day, we offer them the opportunity to live a long, rewarding life.
For more information about the harmful effects of tobacco marketing and local efforts to protect children and teens, visit www.tobaccofreewny.com.