Project Action helping to protect kids

We need Project Action Tobacco-Free Coalition of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties and their partners. They shed light on the dangers of tobacco advertising to our children. The millions the tobacco industry spends recruiting young smokers pays huge dividends for the companies while robbing those recruits of quality of life, health, wealth and mental capacity.

I know all too well that tobacco marketing works. I remember grocery shopping with my mother when I was around 8 or 9 years old. As we were checking out, I picked up a pack of Camel cigarettes, and told my mother that we needed them. I had seen the Joe Camel advertising and he seemed cool. Even though my parents did not smoke, Joe Camel advertisements exposed me to the concept of smoking, and the perception that it would be cool to smoke. Back then, cigarettes were within easy reach of children in stores, but now, thanks to anti-smoking groups, they are kept behind the counter.

The efforts of Project Action and others have worked to limit the impact of advertising on children, but much remains to be done. Cigarettes and tobacco marketing are still at the eye level of children in stores, so they see magazines, candy, and then tobacco products, as if they are a treat. Tobacco marketers continue to present young, beautiful models as smokers, leaving our youth with the impression that smoking is natural and popular. Tobacco companies are only required to describe what will really happen to our bodies in fine print.

The reason why tobacco companies go after our children so aggressively is that perhaps as many as 94 percent of smokers started before their 19th birthday. Why? The part of the brain that has to do with judgment is not fully developed until we are in our 20s. Tobacco companies know that if they do not get young people to start by age 19, their potential for getting them to start drops dramatically.

The good news is that anti-smoking campaigns are working. Groups like Project Action are having an effect. In 1995, almost 25 percent of adults smoked. By 2013, that percentage has dropped to about 18 percent. But that is still far too many. Each smoker is harmed by each cigarette he or she smokes, so we must continue to support the efforts of Project Action Coalition of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery Counties and their partners.

JANINE BROWN, youth services specialist, Montgomery County Dept. of Youth, Alternatives to Incarceration & Veterans’ Services