Shifting Attitudes Toward Cigarette Smokers


Attitudes towards smoking are gradually changing in America. One proof of that is the number of high school students who are no longer cigarette smokers is on the rise. In 1997 36 percent of high school students were cigarette smokers, compared with 20 percent in 2007, 10 years later. Students at Franklin-Simpson High School in Kentucky are particularly adamant about their desire to eliminate tobacco from their school. High School students show a concentrated shift toward a negative attitude against cigarette smokers, or those who use other tobacco products.

In 2013 Kentucky dropped to sixth place among high schools for cigarette use. A survey report from the Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior shows Kentucky was number one in 2011, compared to other states. Franklin-Simpson High School is currently 100 percent tobacco free in the pubic school district in South Central Kentucky.

The CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey is performed during the spring semester every two years. The goal to reduce smoking in Kentucky high schools is for a 19 percent smoking-involvement rate. The rate in 2013 was 15 percent for high schools across the nation. The Healthy Kentuckian 2020 program proposed the objective for Kentucky high schools.

Kentucky currently has a 100 Percent Tobacco Free Schools policy which prevents use of smoking products of any kind by visitors, staff, and students, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in school board owned vehicles, buildings or property, and while school-sponsored trips or activities are being conducted. Youth Service Organizations offer programs for students and staff to quit smoking, or using smokeless tobacco, commonly known as dip. Smoking by high school students has been reduced a noticeable amount, there are still many others who consume their roll of tobacco and people who are exposed to the smoke by second inhalation.

Another aspect of smoking not emphasized enough is the cost of health care, loss of productivity, and insurance rates because of persons who smoke. Medical care costs for treating those who smoke, according to the CDC have reached $289 billion dollars, $156 billion in productivity lost, and $133 billion in direct medical expenditures. Smoking may be a personal choice in America, however, statistics clearly display losses in productivity and health declines for smokers and greater expenditures by people who do not smoke who bear a portion of the burden. The population of America currently displays a shift in attitude toward cigarette smokers, and the lifestyle of those who continue to deny the health related dangers of smoking.

Tobacco companies have always targeted certain segments of the population. As more serious health notices notice were displayed on smoking packages, older adults began to quit smoking. The tobacco companies switched the main force of their campaigns to different markets, young adults and teenagers. On that note, it is constructive to showcase a commitment by Dr. Saud Anwar, Mayor of South Windsor, Connecticut.

Anwar suggested a resolution at a town meeting to ban tobacco products at the local CVS pharmacy. The resolution was voted down. Some town council members believed corporations have the right to sell whatever is legal. Anwar continued to convey his stand to the people of South Windsor.

Executives of CVS were soon contacted by different media enterprises about their stand on the issue. CVS expressed concern and explained the topic was being explored. Larry Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Caremark, announced in February of 2014, the drugstore chain would phase tobacco products out of their stores. CVS Caremark has more than 7,600 retail pharmacies across the nation.

One other area of notice in the campaign against smoking and tobacco products in general is the current CDC operation to display first hand, the dangers of smoking. Previous efforts to shock people into not smoking have fallen on deaf ears. If smokers are told this habit will shorten their lives by ten years or so, it does not have the desired outcome. The “It will not happen to me”syndrome is in effect. Smokers virtually ignored the campaign.Cigarette

The CDC introduced a new endeavor in 2012. These ads show smokers who got the message too late; for example, one ad shows Shawn Wright, a former smoker with a stoma, a dime-sized hole in his throat, shaving. The “Tips from a former smoker” ad show Mr. Wright shaving while in his shower. A voice-over of his rasping voice explains, “When you have a hole in your neck, don’t face the shower head.”

There are several spots of Mr. Wright in other simple, everyday, activities but with twists, that someone with a stoma must perform. This type of ad has had a greater effect on smokers than any campaigns the CDC as run in the past. Statistics demonstrated that approximately 100,000 smokers were able to quit their habit out of more than 1.6 million who attempted to do so after seeing this series of 26 ads. This attitude shift concerning the negative effect of cigarette smoking, and tobacco use in general is also affecting smokers themselves, through the graphic displays of these ads.

By Andy Towle

Deseret News
Bowling Green Daily News
NY Times
The Hindu
Huffington Post

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    Great news! Thanks for covering this Andy!

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