Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kicking Butts and Helping Kids Stay Tobacco-Free

Happy Kick Butts Day!

Today – and every day – youth across Wisconsin are working hard to expose and counteract the deadly tactics of the tobacco industry. These young people know that Big Tobacco is targeting them to become lifetime customers. They also know that it is essential to talk peer-to-peer about the importance of being tobacco-free.

It is incredibly inspiring to see young people fight back against Big Tobacco. It’s also critical to the health of their generation.

Recently the U.S. Surgeon General released a report on youth and tobacco. The report concluded that our progress in lowering rates of tobacco use has stalled.

The report included a lot of daunting facts about youth tobacco use. Here are three:
  • The younger a person is when they start using tobacco, the more likely that person will be addicted.
  • Nearly 90% of smokers start before age 18 and 99% start before age 26.
  • We have a staggering replacement rate – every person who dies from smoking-related causes is replaced by two new, young smokers. 

In short, we are facing a pediatric epidemic.

In Wisconsin, tobacco companies spend $233 million a year marketing their deadly products, which blows away the $5.3 million we spend on the state’s tobacco prevention and control program each year. From colorful packaging and onscreen smoking in children’s movies to candy-flavored mini-cigars and smokeless tobacco that looks like breath mints, it is clear that tobacco corporations are finding creative ways to reach young customers.

To counter the $1 million an hour that tobacco spends marketing their deadly products in the U.S., last Thursday the CDC launched its first-ever national advertising campaign encouraging people to quit smoking. The hard-hitting campaign, “Tips from a Former Smoker,” features real people who are suffering from life-altering health problems and major diseases as a result of tobacco use.

The campaign highlights that tobacco is not only the leading preventable cause of death (killing nearly 8,000 a year in Wisconsin alone) – it also leads to serious long-term suffering. The “Tips from a Former Smoker” ads hit the airwaves this week in communities across Wisconsin. You can view the compelling ads here

We know what works in the fight against tobacco – higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention programs, and strong smoke-free laws. We also know that reducing tobacco use will save lives and help our businesses, families and state save money. Let’s use Kick Butts Day as an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to protecting our kids from Big Tobacco.

Join our youth today in telling tobacco companies to stop targeting our kids and encourage your communities and leaders to take a stand against Big Tobacco.

Click here for a list of Kick Butts Day events in Wisconsin.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Graphic Cigarette Warning Labels and Big Tobacco's Stall Tactics

Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled the FDA’s new graphic warning labels on cigarette packages violate Big Tobacco’s freedom of speech.

The decision is only one step in the legal process – the case will go on to appeal. But it is a small victory for Big Tobacco, awarding the industry’s continued aggressive and deceitful efforts to conceal the fatal health effects of smoking.

It's clear that Big Tobacco is using the courts as a stall tactic to keep effective new cigarette warning labels off their products as long as possible.

Starting this September, the FDA will require graphic warning labels to cover 50% of the front and 50% of the back of cigarette packages. The truthful, appalling labels will also be prominently featured in tobacco ads. The warnings will replace the small text-only cigarette warning labels that have not been updated since 1984.

This idea is not new. Many other countries, from Brazil to Russia, require similar graphic warnings on their cigarettes. Research from these countries shows these labels are an effective way to educate about the risks of smoking and discourage smoking. 

We need all the tools possible to further educate people about this deadly addiction and counteract the hundreds of millions of dollars the tobacco industry spends peddling their products to new and existing customers.

In Wisconsin alone, tobacco companies spend $233 million a year to market their lethal products to kids and adults – more than 40 times what the state spends on the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program ($5.3 million/year).

In case you forgot, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in Wisconsin and nearly 8,000 residents die each year from tobacco-related causes. Tobacco costs us over $4.5 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. That’s almost $2,000 per Wisconsin household!

The new cigarette warning labels will help relieve this tremendous burden on our kids, families, businesses and communities.

Let’s get these warning labels on our cigarette packages. In doing so, we’ll help the 70 percent of adult smokers who want to quit and we’ll prevent our kids from picking up this lifetime addiction.