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Protect Our Youth

Getting Youth Hooked on Tobacco

When your product ends up killing the people who buy it, you’re constantly looking for new customers. The tobacco industry is finding new ways to get youth hooked on tobacco. It’s working in Colorado. Six out of 10 high school students in Colorado who attempt to buy cigarettes are successful, leading to 4,900 becoming regular smokers each year before they are even 18 years old. Put another way, it’s projected that 90,600 Colorado youth currently aged 17 and younger will die from smoking.1,2

The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive, making it easy to go from using tobacco every once in awhile to all the time. It’s estimated that three out of four high school smokers will remain smokers into adulthood. Of these smokers, one out of three will die about 13 years sooner than nonsmokers.3

Marketing Strategies Used by the Tobacco Industry

The tobacco industry uses its marketing power to make tobacco use look attractive and cool, and makes it seem like using tobacco is okay. The cigarette industry spends more than $8 billion in marketing each year and the smokeless tobacco industry spends an additional $451.7 million.

So what are some of the strategies the tobacco industry is using to appeal to youth?
  • Making products available at lower prices through coupons and promotions.
  • Placing tobacco products in vending machines or selling them online. These purchases rarely require proof of age.
  • Making tobacco products taste good through fruit flavors in products such as e-cigarettes, cigars, snuff, and chew. This strategy has now been banned for regular cigarettes.
  • New products such as dissolvables that are easy to hide and require no spitting while providing nicotine highs that last between 2 and 30 minutes.
  • Using appealing packaging terms such as “thin” or “slim” to give teens the impression they will lose weight. Studies show this is not true.
  • Using retail marketing strategies in convenience stores by placing tobacco products at check-out to trigger impulse buys.
  • Placement of coupons, games and videos on social networking sites commonly visited by young people.
  • Ads in magazines targeted at youth. TV and billboard ads have been banned.

Protect Youth From Tobacco

Protecting kids from addiction to tobacco is possible. You can join a growing effort that includes parents, teachers, families, schools, communities and states that are standing up to the tobacco industry. Some of the most effective strategies in the fight against tobacco include:
  • Making tobacco products less affordable.
  • Requiring tobacco companies to put large warning labels on packaging.
  • Restricting marketing and retail marketing placement strategies such as at the counter.
  • Banning sales near youth-oriented facilities.
  • Encouraging bans on flavored tobacco products.
  • Enforcing smoking bans in public places and restaurants. Click here to learn how to report a violation in Colorado.
  • Deciding to quit smoking.
  • Taking the Tobacco Free Pledge to help spread messages about a tobacco-free Colorado.

Parents and Caretakers: Methods to Help Fight Tobacco Use

If you are often around youth who are using tobacco, it’s important to let them know the facts of tobacco use. Knowing what your kids do in their free time, and whom they’re hanging out with, can help prevent exposure to tobacco products. Get to know the parents of your child’s friends and find social circles that will help reinforce the message of refusing tobacco. Most importantly, if you’re a parent of a teen, set a good example by not using tobacco yourself.

Talking to Your Teen About Tobacco Use

Believe it or not, adults, especially parents, still continue to be the strongest influence in a teen’s life. Start talking with your teen about the pressures they’re dealing with such as peer pressure to use tobacco. Having these types of conversations can start to help teens make healthier choices. Below are some tips to ensure your teen is tobacco-free:
  • Set a clear example by not using tobacco as a parent or guardian.
  • Don’t allow tobacco use in the home and car.
  • Tell teens the truth about common smoking and weight loss myths. 
  • Let teens know tobacco use immediately hurts their health and image. Bad breath, smelly clothes, and other effects can be reversed by quitting. 
  • Encourage schools to enforce tobacco-free policies for students, faculty, staff, and visitors at all times and at all school events.
  • Encourage your child’s school to provide proven tobacco-free programs for teens, such as the Not On Tobacco (NOT) Program, reaching more than 150,000 teens in 48 states since 1999.

  1. CDC: Best Practices for Tobacco Control Programs, 2007.
  2. 2009 Burden Report