Young People Lured Into Smoking
I just read Dr. Plume's column on smoking in college. [Smoke-Free College Dormitories]
If smoking kills so many people, why do we let films and TV programs show the stars smoking all the time?
Doesn't this set a bad example?
Patty Marie Ames, Salt Lake City, UT
Yes, without question.
According to recently released figures the nation's total yearly losses due to smoking runs to $157.7 billion. (These losses are based primarily on premature deaths, medical costs we all share, and lost productivity.) This comes out to an additional $7.18 cost per pack for the 22 billion packs of cigarettes sold each year.
In a well-researched article The Nation magazine (May 6, 2002) ties "big tobacco" to numerous illegal activities.
To protect their turf the tobacco companies have been one of the largest contributors to political parties.
Data in the chart on the right covers youth smoking from 1975 to 2001, and was supplied by the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research.
Note that about one-third of 12th graders say they have smoked within the last 30 days. The probability is that when young people start smoking they will quickly develop an addiction.
Although "Hollywood" continues to get complaints about promoting smoking, they continue to ignore them.
According to the Los Angeles Times as recently as 1991 the R. J Reynolds Tobacco Company was paying a big PR firm $12,500 a month to provide free cigarettes to numerous top film stars, production companies, and executives.
This year three of the five films nominated for best picture show key figures smoking.
According to documents posted on the Smoke Free Movies Web site, in the mid-80's Sylvester Stallone was paid $500,000 to use Brown & Williamson products in five feature films. Now, apparently, compensation is more subtle.
Although tens of thousands of letters have been written to the studios and to stars about the on-camera use of tobacco, the concerns voiced in the letters apparently never elicit any kind of response. They simply refuse to talk about the issue.
According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, (Yes, I do homework on these letters!) studies show that young people who see their heroes smoking are more likely to start smoking themselves.
At the same time it's strange that young people are banned from films that have bad language or nudity (neither of which will kill you), but films that feature stars smoking (something that can kill you) can be G-rated.
Given their callous attitude toward the welfare of people—especially the youth of the nation—and the number of laws they have broken, it seems obvious that the tobacco companies are very deliberately trading the welfare of people for corporate profits.
But, since the tobacco companies have so much power over the political process, it's doubtful if we'll see major action from Washington.
Maybe some letters to film studios and TV networks would help. Consider it your good deed for the week...or maybe even the month.
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