Tag Archives: cigarettes

The Power of Advertisers (Article)

I was perusing my CDC weekly mortality and morbidity report a few weeks ago, and I saw an interesting statistical graph: smoking by occupation in the U.S. As we have talked about many times in this blog, smoking rates have been–and continue to–decline in the United States, thank goodness. Currently 20% of the population smokes, down from 50% during my childhood years. As you can see in the graph, the CDC has further broken down smoking by occupation, and I am happy to report that healthcare and social assistance occupations were the lowest group of smokers by percentage, currently at 16%.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 10.12.05 PM

Just a few decades ago, the picture of the healthcare industry’s relationship with smoking was a very different one. Just take a look at these ads featuring doctors, babies, mothers, and cigarettes. Engaging pictures of distinguished looking doctors, cute babies, and young vital, attractive mothers were used to endorse cigarettes. A careful examination of the message in these ads to me revealed two essential messages:

1.  Loving, kind, respected, attractive people around you want you to smoke.

2.  The advertisers of particular brand of cigarette claiming that their brand is less “irritating” than the other brands.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 10.15.01 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-30 at 10.21.46 PM

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 10.21.15 PM

In other words, the makers of cigarettes knew, long before the devastating effects of tobacco smoke were fully understood, that some cigarettes were less likely to make smokers sick than others.

Oh, what a difference a few decades can make in behavior and attitude. I think we can conclude from all this information that the anti-smoking campaign, waged in the past 50 years, has been extremely effective. These new statistics once again reveal how effectively advertising can change behavior. Remember the government tobacco settlement with cigarette makers just a few years ago? Tobacco companies were forced to turn over a staggering amount of money to be spent mostly on anti-smoking advertising. I think we have to admit that these ads seemed to have worked. Negative images and messages about tobacco have had a big impact on our behavior, especially the behavior of healthcare workers and children. Isn’t it wonderful that without banning the sale or use of tobacco, a little negative advertising could convince so many millions of Americans not to sicken themselves by using tobacco? America: for our children’s sake, let’s not stop until we are completely tobacco free.

I welcome your comments. Visit www.docsmo.com today. You’ll be glad you did. Until next time.

Smo Notes:


The Electronic Cigarette Teen Craze (Article)

Every parent needs to be aware of a new trend among teens and young adults: using what are called “e-cigarettes,”  a high-tech alternative to traditional cigarettes. Makers of e-cigarettes claim that they are safer, have lower cancer risks, and provide higher doses of nicotine per breath. What is this new and improved cigarette, the e-cigarette? It is a battery powered tube that uses the heat from the batteries to vaporize nicotine, allowing the “smoker” to inhale without the smoke. Nothing is actually burning in these devices. Unfortunately, just because the user isn’t inhaling smoke does not mean that e-cigarettes are harmless.  Nicotine itself is addictive and poisonous. The World Heath Organization and the Food and Drug Administration  have concluded that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are safer, and that the makers of e-cigarettes are misleading the public. Many states are working on banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Nonetheless, the teen move toward  e-cigarettes has begun.  A recent study at Eastern Carolina University  surveyed 3200 urban high school students between 2011 and 2012 on their attitudes and use of e-cigarettes. The average age of the students was 16.4 years with the following ethnic breakdown: 44% black, 38% white and 8.2 % Mexican American. The investigators asked the teens if they had ever used e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco. The survey revealed the following results:

  • 25% of teens had used or were using traditional cigarettes
  • 15% of teens had used or where using e-cigarettes
  • 13% had used or were using smokeless tobacco.

Teens seem to be unusually susceptible to the smoking/tobacco messages. Many believe that smoking is cool, provides a pleasurable taste, reduces stress levels, moves them into the “adult world” more quickly, and impresses their peers. Additionally, they seem to believe that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to traditional tobacco. Unfortunately, the health problems that traditional cigarettes cause aren’t seen until many years after their use; the same may be true for e-cigarettes. It will be a long time before we have any idea if e-cigarettes are safer than traditional tobacco products.

Here is our advice for parents when talking to children about cigarettes and tobacco:

  • Send a clear message all through childhood that tobacco products cause serious health problems
  • Get ahead of the peer pressure by reminding children that tobacco use does not enhance  looks or attractiveness in any way
  • Teach children that smokeless tobacco is probably as dangerous or more dangerous than traditional tobacco products
  • Offer help to children who are using tobacco products (In this regard, a child’s doctor can be a wonderful resource.  In North Carolina, the following resource are available to anyone, free of charge. http://www.quitlinenc.com/)
  • If a child is using e-cigarettes as a “safer alternative” to cigarettes, point out to him or her that the long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes are unknown.

For more portable, practical pediatrics, log onto www.docsmo.com.  Subscribe, comment, or simply tell your story.  Until next time.

Smo Notes:

1. Naseem Miller, E-cigarettes gaining popularity in high schools, Pediatric News, November 13 2013.

Written collaboratively by Catherine Wu and Paul Smolen M.D.