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nicotine addict
creatures of habit
brand preference
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tobacco companies
financial times
young person
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Young Smokers
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Too Young to Smoke

Is there anything more tragic than watching a young person smoke? When I say young, I don't mean someone in their early 20's or late teens, though this is bad enough. I mean really young, someone who doesn't know any better. It saddens me when I see someone who looks about 15 with a cigarette. They, no doubt feel cool but to me and I'm sure to other adults, they just seem pathetic.

Start Them Young and Keep Them Coming Back For More

It seems that starting smoking whilst young is not the exception. The evidence indicates that of all smokers, 60% will have started by age 16. The pattern has been set and 90% of smokers will have taken up the habit by 20. This interesting statistic hasn't gone unnoticed by the tobacco companies. If you produce a product that kills its users then you have to think about attracting new users to your product, otherwise you will eventually go out of business. This makes sound business sense. The great thing about tobacco, as a product, is that is relatively cheap to manufacture and that it is addictive. This means that the consumer will always be coming back for more. Good financial times or ill, it makes no difference because the nicotine addict will always buy your product. Much research and money has been spent on looking at why young people smoke. Not all of it by prestigious research institutes. Brand preference is an interesting example. Humans are creatures of habit and we like to stick to things we know and feel comfortable with. Interestingly one of these things is cigarette brand preference. If you start smoking a particular brand first off, then you are likely to continue smoking that particular brand for the rest of your smoking life. This is not university research, but research conducted by the tobacco companies. So if you want to attract young people to your product how do you go about it? Perhaps you could market your brand with a childish theme. Would this work? How would governments react if the tobacco companies blatantly used these tactics to entice the young? What do young people aspire to, well strangely enough they want to be adults- not adults like you and me of course, they want the maturity but they also want to be cool at the same time; an interesting combination of characteristics that can only be bestowed on the young. Adults smoke, and they are definitely mature, judging by their wrinkly faces. To be mature and cool you have to be a young smoker. While blatant tobacco advertising has all but gone from the western world, this mean that the tobacco companies have had to get more crafty and a lot more inventive. I don't have space in this article to consider how the tobacco companies have tackled this problem to their advantage- this would require a separate article. Suffice it to say, that they have gone about it with intelligence and a dedication borne out of financial gain; this has always been a winning combination.

The Human Condition.....

The point is, young people often make poor decisions about many aspects of their life. This is to be expected and is the norm for the human condition. There is a hard learning process that all of us tackle with a mixed degree of success. Tobacco throws something else into the mix, and this applies to anything addictive, whether it is drugs or behaviour. If you make a mistake in life when young and recognise that mistake, you can do something about it and move on. If you are young and smoke cigarettes and realise that you have made a mistake and would like to stop smoking and move on, you have a problem because you are addicted. Instead of rectifying a mistake you are doomed to repeat it.

The Ultimate Cost

So what are the implications for smokers who start young? The obvious point is that smoking related diseases are going to appear at an earlier age. If you smoke at age 13, and continue to smoke, diseases such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer may start occurring before middle age. But it gets worse; studies indicate that young smokers may have a greater risk of lung cancer than those who start as adults. While it is not known exactly why this correlation exists it is thought to be due to the greater susceptibility of developing lung tissue to smoke damage.

The Ultimate Tragedy

The ultimate tragedy of course, is what starts out as an act of rebellion, or as a means to fit in to a social group, or even to appear 'mature' quickly develops into a full blown habit over which the young smoker has no control. The real and ultimate tragedy is that they start at all.


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