Advertising Alcohol and Tobacco to Children

In his Theory of Moral Sentiment, Adam Smith said, “Man ought to regard himself, not as something separated and detached, but as a citizen of the world, a member of the vast commonwealth of nature and to the interest of this great community, he ought at all times to be willing that his own little interest should be sacrificed. ” These words should ring loud and clear in the ears of alcohol and tobacco marketing professionals. However, it seems more likely that their desire to increase their own wealth surpasses any thoughts of moral responsibility to children.

This is evident in a quote taken from a Phillip Morris marketing report that reads, “The ability to attract new smokers and develop them into a young adult franchise is important to brand development. ” The explosion of high-tech media and advertising today requires regulations to keep the products in appropriate places to minimize the influence of alcohol and tobacco on children. Tobacco use in children is very dangerous and addictive, and the branding of nicotine should be restricted to minimize the exposure and glamorization of it to children. The use of tobacco is the United States’ deadliest addiction.

Over 400,000 people die each year from diseases attributable to tobacco use. Cigarettes kill more people in the United States than AIDS, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs, and fires combined. Lazo 2 Every year, more than one million youths become regular smokers, costing the health care system an extra 8. 2 billion dollars in extra medical expenses over their lifetime. It has been noticed that due to the decline in adult consumption that tobacco companies have purposely and aggressively targeted youth and non-smokers to increase tobacco use. Adolescents do not understand the long-term effects of choosing to smoke.

When questioned about it, many teenagers said they only planned on smoking for a few years and not for a lifetime. “However, once the addiction to nicotine sets in, they are no longer capable of making the choice to stop like they had planned. ” (Lynch) Teenagers view smoking as a form of social bonding and acceptance, and this view is influenced by the glamorization of smokers in movies, media, and video games. Adolescents are clearly influenced by media. Until it is regulated, teenagers will continue to think that smoking is cool, especially when they see beautiful men and women on the big screen doing it with no onsequences. Stronger measures are needed to regulate the messages about tobacco use, especially where children are exposed. Unfortunately, state and local governments are blocked by federal law from regulating the advertising of tobacco products in the media and at the point of sale. As a result, public education efforts are minimized in reducing tobacco use among teenagers. The message that tobacco products are acceptable and gratifying is prevalent in highly visible and public places. Often times, the type of advertising used to promote tobacco products offer rewards that are very appealing to children.

Along with tobacco, alcohol advertisements are geared toward underage drinking are another dilemma faced by agencies who are trying to increase awareness. Lazo 3 The promotion and advertising of alcohol to children needs to be regulated to minimize the misleading messages it sends to children. Teenagers have to deal with many forms of peer pressure while growing up, and the influence media has on them greatly increases that challenge. Binge drinking is the most widespread form of alcohol abuse among teenagers in America.

The relaxing, good times that are portrayed in the media often lead to teenagers experimenting with alcohol. Once they feel the effects of the high, they often choose to drink more and more to relive the experience. Chasing this high often leads to binge drinking which can be deadly. The American Psychological Association has reported that the human brain develops until it is 21 years old. Therefore, young binge drinkers may damage their memory and learning capacity. Binge drinking leads to DWI accidents, risky sex, personal injury, and violent crimes. Youngerman) As with tobacco, alcohol companies are suspected of intentionally targeting underage drinkers. Widespread media advertisements suggest that attractive and successful people that drink beer are always having fun with their friends. This encourages teenagers to associate alcohol with good times and having lots of attractive “fun-loving” people around. Marketers spend billions of dollars a year promoting alcohol where teenagers are very likely to be present. Many teenagers participate in sports and look up to their idol athletes.

However, almost every major sporting event that is televised or live promotes alcoholic beverages. To an impressionable teenager, this would surely influence them to associate alcohol with sports and success. It is crucial that advertisement be regulated as to not disillusion children to think that alcohol is the normal and healthy way to be successful, popular, and happy. Teenagers tend to be very loyal to their most admired Lazo 4 stars. “Advertising plays on this loyalty by having the most popular stars market their products. (Kahle) After all, if children insist on drinking their idol’s favorite brand of soda, they are likely to also consume their favorite brand of beer. You often see athletes celebrating with massive amounts of alcohol after winning an important game, treating it as if it were water. The government is not as strict on alcohol advertisement as it even is in its rather passive rules with tobacco. Their reasoning is that alcohol can be safely consumed by some people. However, this stance with regards to promoting alcohol to children must be altered.

It is often argued by these marketing professionals and dominant companies that they are not the ones making the decisions for other people. By targeting the youth of America, you might as well be making the decisions for them. The marketing professionals know that the younger you are, the more impressionable you are. The brain is still learning and still easily manipulated into thinking a different way. By targeting impressionable people, they are ensuring that they will have a long-term customer. This method of manipulating the brain is disingenuous and is doing a disservice to the next generation.

If trends continue the way they have been in the last two decades, we will start to see a majority of populations turning smoking and drinking into a second nature. Teenagers have to deal with many forms of peer pressure today. They have to worry about being cool and being popular. Many children often turn their attention to the media to find “cool” people to model. Unfortunately, teenagers often associate dangerous activities, like smoking and drinking, with being cool and popular. It is imperative that aggressive steps are taken to prevent media and marketers from targeting teenagers and Lazo 5 hildren to use alcohol and tobacco products. Although the strongest barriers start at home, it is the responsibility of advertisers to not take advantage of children by using their idols to influence them to consume their products. Technology has granted immediate access to information with the click of a mouse, remote control, or a cell phone button. Corporate social responsibility is the key to making moral social changes to enhance the lives of American children. “If the corporations choose to not take these actions on their own, then they need to be forced to by regulation laws. ” (McElhaney)

Works Cited Preventing Nicotine Addiction in Children and Youths. Lynch, Barbara; Richard, Bonnie. National Academy Press, Washington, D. C. 1994. Acessed 21 Nov. 2010 The Truth About Alcohol. Youngerman, Barry; Kittleson, Mark. New York Facts on File, Inc. , 2005. Accessed 21 Nov. 2010 Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand. McElhaney, Kellie. San Francisco Berrett Koehler, 2008. Accessed 21 Nov. 2010 Sports Marketing and the Psychology of Marketing Communication. Kahle, Lynn R. ; Riley, Chris. Mahwah, N. J. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. , 2004. Accessed 21 Nov. 2010

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