Remember Joe the Camel and Marlboro Man? Although direct advertising of tobacco products to children and adolescents (and in ways that appeal to children and adolescents) is, thankfully, much more regulated in the U.S. than it used to be, these tropes are still a part of the public consciousness. Kids are still aware of Joe Camel, and they still see cigarettes marketed in the magazines that their parents read and elsewhere.
Thankfully, the laws against cigarette marketing continue to be strengthened. The FDA just passed new rules that will go into effect that further limit where and how tobacco companies are marketing their products. Sadly, these laws are being put into place because, once again, the number of adolescents who are smoking is actually on the rise.
As the statistics show, limiting the exposure that youth have to pro-smoking information is not enough. Promoting anti-smoking awareness is needed to help counter the work of pop culture, peer pressure, and residual marketing effects.
Spreading A Healthier Message
One of our top priorities in the work we do with schools and community organizations is that of anti-smoking. It’s right up there with childhood obesity in helping our kids to establish healthy habits now that will keep them healthy in the long term.
As with anything, a multi-faceted approach is one of the best ways to help students learn and absorb something. When anti-smoking messages come from parents, from teachers, and from role models, they’re more likely to sink in.
Our folders come into play by reinforcing the lessons kids are learning elsewhere. With messages of standing up for yourself, keeping yourself healthy, and making smart choices on a folder, every time a student sees that folder, their brains bank that information. Just as cigarette marketing works to establish a desire, things like folders and classroom posters can reinforce the importance of good choices.
Altering Peer Pressure: Fostering Alternative Peer Conversations
Cigarette marketing aside, peer pressure is still one of the leading drivers of kids smoking. We encourage teachers and parents to use our anti-smoking folders as more than just a passive reminder, but as an opportunity for active conversation. Especially in the classroom, folders can initiate fruitful and frank discussions about smoking, which not only educate the students, but can start altering the dynamic of their group interactions.
When students have listened to a classmate or favorite teacher share a personal story about a parent or family friend who struggles with smoking, that becomes a part of their shared experience. This does more than reinforce the anti-smoking message: it gives them a shared discussion point, as peers, that delivers a healthier and more honest message about what smoking has to offer.