Do you remember smoking your first cigarette while you drank your first ice-cold frosty brew when you were only nine? I really don’t remember it, but if I recall, I used to smoke a pack a day and drink a 12-er daily solely because that is exactly what tobacco and alcohol marketing executives wanted. Ok. So maybe that didn’t happen (I swear mom!). But ever since I got into communications, I have been drenched in the “advertising causes children to smoke and drink” storm. And once again, I read an article from the New York Times saying that limiting advertising and promotions is a way to curb underage consumption.
here have been so many restrictions given to alcohol and smoking advertising during the past 20 years and underage kids still smoke and drink. It would be nice if the results from your studies were true. It just doesn’t fit the reality of today’s youth. Teenagers don’t need a cigarette or beer commercial to become interested. Kids like to emulate their parents, older friends, and other older people they consider cool. All it takes to get Little Jimmy to want to smoke is to watch his older brother Bigger Timmy inhale a smooth Marlboro Light.
What public relations should do is not push the whole “advertising is the devil” when it comes to smoking and drinking. I think the best thing to do would be to get parents involved in programs to better inform their children in a way that kids actually listen. Take on a more positive role and get spokespersons, media, and health care clients to push sober activities. So what do you think PR people should do to help this cause? — Andrew E. Smith