Cigarette advertising gives children a false impression of how many people actually smoke, said a health sciences expert on Thursday.
"It certainly normalizes a very lethal addiction and makes it appear everyone is doing it," said Gordon B. Lindsay, associate professor of health science at Brigham Young University. Lindsay spoke as part of BYU's Education Week, outlining various ways alcohol and tobacco companies recruit new smokers and maintain current users of their products.Ads don't force children to buy cigarettes; however, children do greatly overestimate how many people smoke. "Kids really think more people do it than actually do," Lindsay said.
Cigarette companies target youth for various reasons, including the potential for more product use in the future. Also, once a brand is chosen, brand loyalty is very strong for both cigarettes and alcohol.
Young girls are targeted through ads which market cigarettes as a weight control device, he said.
Ads for cigarettes have changed over the years. Models in today's ads look much younger than they did in 1970, and today's models are shown engaged in playful, juvenile activities. Cigarette smoke is not shown in today's ads to help prevent people from thinking about second-hand smoke, Lindsay said.
Lindsay described four ways cigarette companies can respond to assertions that cigarettes are addictive: confusing the public, reporting that millions of people have been able to quit, conceding that it can become a "habit" and trivializing the issue. Part of being a good tobacco company executive is learning how to deceive and to lie, he said.
Alcohol and tobacco companies find it helpful to develop bogus educational programs, Lindsay said. Although alcohol companies may conduct "know when to say when" programs, they never define how much is too much. One specific ad suggested drinkers call home if they've had too much - through which the company is assuming drinkers will go beyond their limit, Lindsay said. Studies have shown that when college students have a designated driver, they tend to drink more.
Effective drug education for children includes teaching them not only to say no to drugs, but how to say no. Role playing situations are helpful, Lindsay said. "The idea behind this is kind of a psychological innoculation" which will help prevent youth from becoming involved in drugs.
Education efforts should also focus more on "gateway drugs" such as alcohol and tobacco and less on the not-so-common substances. Encouraging children to seek natural highs is also effective, he said.
Lindsay listed other methods of preventing children from using drugs, including:
- Spending time with children.
- Giving lots of physical affection.
- Limiting television viewing.
- Reinstitutionalizing family dinner time.