Young adults ignore the dark side of lighting-up

Some are funny, some are scary, some are even repulsive, but anti-smoking ads are everywhere from buses, to television, even on cigarette packs, yet smart, young adults continue to light up.

Dr. Roberta Ferrence, Executive Director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit at the University of Toronto, and a Senior Scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says that it’s not because the ads don’t work, it’s that young adults are too addicted to smoking.

“I think they know about the ads, but what we find is that a lot of kids think they can just smoke for a little while and then quit, and first thing they know, they’re addicted,” says Dr. Ferrence.

“They don’t realize that they’re going to get addicted, and six months later they realize that they’re really needing cigarettes and it’s very difficult to quit, even after a short period of smoking.”

Emma Goegan, is 18 and is planning to attend The University of Toronto for literature studies next year. She has been smoking since she was 16 and admits that getting addicted was easy, since getting cigarettes was.

Store would sell them ‘to pretty much anybody’

“I had this convenience store across (from) my school that would just pretty much sell them to anyone,” says Goegan. “So all my friends and I would just get them.”

Taking cigarettes out of convenience stores is a great step towards deterring a lot of young adults from smoking in the first place according to Dr. Ferrence. In fact, by 2008 convenient store smoking ads will come down across Ontario, but people can still expect to see surgeon’s warnings on their packs.

But Goegan says that no matter how many surgeons’ warnings she sees, she’ll still continue to buy them.

“All that non-smoking stuff, I don’t know, it’s gross, the facts, but I guess I just ignore it,” says Goegan. “I think I’ve just gotten used to them so much, that it doesn’t have that much meaning anymore.”

Lorraine Fry, the General Manager at The Non-Smoker’s Rights Association, says that the mass media advertisements aren’t expected to get to people to quit just like that.

“It’s not like someone’s going to see that and stop smoking,” says Fry. “(The ads) are designed to make people aware of tobacco effects so the government can help impose new legislation, such as smoking bans, and people will be okay with that since they already have (the effects) in their head.”

Both Dr. Ferrence and Fry agree that the advertisements aren’t meant to work on their own, rather as part of a larger strategy to create awareness, and make it easier for government bans to take place.

Emulate grown-up behaviour

If an advertisement were to work alone though, Fry says that it would be best to target adult smokers, since many young adults “emulate grown-up behaviour.”
Dr. Ferrence says that youth are less likely to start smoking if their parents don’t.

“A lot of kids start smoking because they’re already addicted from the second-hand smoke of their parents’, and that’s something there isn’t a lot of information on at this point,” says Dr. Ferrence.

“But we know that kids are much more likely to smoke, and we know that if parents don’t smoke in their home, the kids are less likely to start.”

Goegan, whose mother started smoking at age 17, says that she’s never tried to quit but hopes to do so by the summer since she “spends too much money on cigarettes.”

Dr. Ferrence encourages people to stop smoking as soon as possible since their chances of getting tobacco-related diseases are reduced. She also says that they also should stop for the sake of “playing into the hands of an industry that doesn’t really care about people, just about profit.”

For more information on quitting, contact the smoker’s quit line at 1-877-523-5333.