Methods for Tobacco Control

In 1964, the harmful health hazards of tobacco usage were made public by the Surgeon General in America. It has been nearly fifty years since the deadly effects of tobacco were first suspected and proven, yet there are around 46 million people in the United States that struggle with an addiction to the nicotine found within tobacco. Tobacco, in any form, can lead to increased risk of heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and various other health problems. Every year there are approximately 438,000 reported deaths directly related to tobacco users, just within America. This is the largest leading cause of preventable deaths in the country. This statistic does not include those living with problems related to tobacco use and also does not include the amount of people effected by second hand smoke. Second hand smoke from cigarettes can cause many of the same conditions, without the sufferer ever making the conscience decision to use tobacco. There is an estimated 38,000 deaths a year in relation to second hand smoke. In most instances, the majority of people that are exposed to second hand smoke are children. Because children do not yet have fully developed lungs, second hand smoke exposure can lead to serious respiratory diseases and may also increase the severity of asthma in those whom already suffer with the disease. Infants are especially at risk for developing these health problems as there have been connections linked to smoking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Studies show that infants with mothers that smoke have an increased risk of suffering from SIDS, about three to four times greater than those with smoke-free mothers. It is necessary to protect these children from the health risks caused by tobacco use and the way to accomplish this is by prevention and cessation of tobacco use. One of the most effective ways to prevent tobacco use and encourage quitting amongst those that are already smokers is to use tobacco control methods.

Tobacco control methods are measures that are taken to prevent the use and attempt to eliminate the production of tobacco. There are various methods for tobacco control, yet each one has a different approach. Overall, the message of each is simple: tobacco use can be prevented. The existence of any form of tobacco control program is thought to reduce adolescent tobacco use by around 13%. If each state were equipped with understandable tobacco control methods, it is thought that there would be around 2,000 less tobacco related deaths in each state, every year. This would drastically lower the amount of yearly deaths from 438,000 to about 338,000. The effectiveness of each method varies greatly depending on the age of the audience, the accurateness of the information given as well as the consistency of exposure to the method. Each method is thought to be more successful at preventing tobacco use than convincing adult smokers to quit, though there is some success reported in this area as well.

Educational Methods:

An education based tobacco control method entails educating people on the facts about tobacco. This method focuses on explaining what tobacco is in understandable terms. Most times this includes breaking down each specific chemical that is found in products that contain tobacco to give accurate information on what these chemicals are. Tar, rat poison and ammonia are common in cigarettes, yet most people cannot identify these elements due to the complexity of the scientific names they are given as ingredients in cigarettes. Explaining these matters in general terms, makes it more likely that people will understand just how dangerous tobacco is which will in turn prevent them from allowing these toxins into their bodies. Educational methods stress prevention and show the toll that tobacco can take on your body. The health problems are discussed and often examples are shown of people whom are suffering from diseases due to the use of tobacco products. In some states, such as Washington, Maine and New York, this method along with an increase in cigarette taxes, has shown a decrease in adult smokers of around 15-25% and a 40-60% decline in smoking amongst teens. Most studies, however, show that this high rate of success is due to the increased price of tobacco instead of the educational programs alone.

 

Sports Initiatives:

Tobacco-free sports initiatives is a tobacco control method that is continually gaining popularity among today’s youth. This method is aimed towards young athletes and is very similar to the educational tobacco control method, only focused more on the health effects of tobacco and how this many effect athletic performances. The sports initiatives method is effective because it stresses how tobacco use can immediately effect athletic performance by causing shortness of breath and other problems almost immediately after beginning the use of tobacco. Many young athletes do in fact stay away from tobacco when they feel it will jeopardize their chances at athletic success. Around 86% of athletes in tobacco-free sports are reported to stay away from the use of tobacco. This method is very effective, but does not appear to have an effect on those who have no interest in sports. Only about 35% of teenagers and youth are involved in sports while only half of this number participates in tobacco-free sport initiatives. The long term effects are also not well known, seeing as around 85% of these athletes do not play beyond high school.

 

Celebrities Against Tobacco:

Celebrities have an overwhelmingly strong influence over adolescents. This can be terrifying in some instances, yet it goes both ways. Celebrities that make healthy choices and choose not to use tobacco can strongly encourage their fans to abstain from tobacco use as well. There are more and more celebrities that are joining forces to get the message out about the harmful effects of tobacco. Unlike the other methods, this method of tobacco control usually focuses more on avoiding peer pressure and the ways that tobacco can effect a person superficially. For instance, a celebrity may say that tobacco causes yellowing of teeth or that it may make a person smell like an ashtray. This is effective especially towards teenagers, seeing as most teens are faced with peer pressure at some point and many are already self-conscience about their appearance. When a teen idolizes a person, they are more likely to do as they do to become more like them. If the message is well received, it is likely to keep a person from beginning to use tobacco products at a critical time. The teen years are the most crucial years to prevent tobacco use, seeing as 90% of heavy, adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 19. There are not many statistics on the effectiveness of this particular method, though it has been shown that a celebrity endorsement of any product can make the public 56% more likely to consider buying the product. Though it is important to remember that this method can easily backfire, seeing as for every celebrity that is “anti-smoking“, there will be another caught by the paparazzi with a cigarette in hand.

 

 

Campaigns/Events:

Campaigning is an effective way to raise awareness about tobacco. There are thousands of different campaigns and events in relation to tobacco. There are campaigns to prevent tobacco use, to quit using tobacco, second hand smoke prevention campaigns and many others. Campaigns and events usually combine several (if not all) of the previously mentioned methods of tobacco control. Celebrities and athletes may join campaigns or events to discuss the educational elements on a larger scale to appeal to different groups of people than they may usually reach with their efforts. This is one of the most effective methods because it appeals to a larger population by combining elements of other methods of tobacco control. The effectiveness varies by each campaign and what specific message the campaign is trying to get across. Between the years of 2000 and 2002, there were major national anti-smoking campaigns launched. During only two years of heavy campaigning, there was found to be a 6.8% nationwide decrease in tobacco use of both adults and teens with no tax increases or other methods used.

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