Why is smoking NOT an adult choice, as the tobacco industry wants us to believe?

How many times do we have to hear, especially from anyone who sells and markets tobacco, that tobacco use is an “adult choice?” The tobacco industry has been telling us that for decades and continues to tout this nonsense.

TOBACCO COMPANIES KNOW FULL WELL THAT IF THEY TARGETED ONLY ADULTS, THEIR BUSINESS PROFITS WOULD PLUMMET, AS MUCH AS IF THEY SOLD NICOTINE-FREE TOBACCO.

Here’s an excerpt from British American Tobacco’s web site: “Our companies work to understand the preferences of adult consumers and to design cigarettes to meet them.”

Here’s what I found on Philip Morris’s web site: “At PM USA, our marketing goal is to find ways to effectively, responsibly and profitably connect our brands with adult cigarette smokers. We hope adult cigarette smokers will choose our brands.”

Where is the mention of children and teens being targeted by their tobacco advertising, marketing and sales? That tobacco consumption is an “adult choice” is an old myth that the tobacco industry has consistently touted to the public and still touts it, knowing that it is pure nonsense. It’s a false idea that they love to push, along with their addictive, health-destroying products.

Why is tobacco not simply an adult choice? Mainly because it is highly addictive, and over 80% of adult smokers started smoking when they were children or teens. Target a kid with aggressive advertising, marketing and sales of an addictive substance and many are hooked for life…..it’s big business!

Over 70% of adults who smoke want to quit but are so hooked on tobacco that they can’t easily do it! Tobacco companies have targeted teens for almost as long as they’ve been in existence, and they continue to do so. As a child, I fully remember cigarette candy and my favourite cartoon characters, film stars, politicians, even dear old Santa Claus, puffing away under the supportive and furtive umbrella of the tobacco industry, and sure-as with many of my childhood friends- I, too, wanted to be a smoker.

People who say that the “tobacco industry does not force anybody to smoke” are perfectly correct. When you get kids addicted to cigarettes, you don’t need to do any forcing- the nicotine addiction creates a sinister, insidious self-rewarding situation, as with most addictive drugs of use and abuse. So is smoking or other tobacco use a child’s choice? An informed child’s choice? Still today, as for the last hundred years, tobacco companies get their message across to kids, within the constraints (and they may even break the rules to do it) of tobacco laws.

Then there is passive smoking, which kills over half a million non-smokers yearly and sickens hundreds of thousands of children. Is it an adult choice or right for a pregnant woman to expose her fetus to toxic cigarette chemicals? Is it a right or choice for adults to put their children and family, and other non-smokers at risk from the toxic effects of their smoking?

But there are more arguments against the “adult choice” position. The tobacco industry exploits millions of dear children across the globe, who work as child labourers on tobacco farms and factories, suffering from nicotine toxicity and injuries and-worse still- losing out on a precious education and decent upbringing. Since when did “adult choice” gain priority over the rights of precious children?

Tobacco continues to be the most prevalent cause of preventable deaths globally, one of the most miserable and deadly substances humankind has had to deal with; and tobacco companies, with their financial profits at the top of their priorities, are the major vector of this horrific century-old epidemic of disease and death. It has very little to do with adult choice and largely due to addiction of children and teens and the consequent hell that it creates in terms of human health and well being.

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