Tobacco targets youth

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
The Great American Smokeout emphasizes need for tobacco prevention

Liz Bonney, Tobacco Prevention Coordinator with the Lake Region District Health is passionate about tobacco prevention, especially when it comes to protecting the youth of the area.

The 39th annual Great American Smokeout, which will take place on Nov. 20, encourages everyone to lead tobacco-free lives to prevent tobacco-related diseases and improve overall health and quality of life. The event is traditionally aimed at getting smokers to quit, but Lake Region District Health and the North Dakota Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (the Center) are using the opportunity to educate on the best ways to prevent tobacco use among our kids.

Tobacco prevention efforts are more important than ever because tobacco companies are finding new ways to market their products to youth, which increases youth rates of tobacco use.

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, “Advertising and promotional activities by the tobacco companies cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.” Tobacco companies frequently use brightly-colored packaging and fruit-flavored tobacco products that look and taste like candy to entice kids to try tobacco.

“In the 1998 tobacco settlement lawsuit, tobacco companies promised to stop marketing to our kids, but they have not kept their word,” said  Bonney. “Today, it’s not just about cigarettes, but includes tobacco’s expanding products that include fruit- or candy-flavored cigars, smokeless tobacco and other nicotine-based products, such as electronic cigarettes.”

Another effective way to reduce youth smoking is to increase the price of tobacco products. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, “increases in the prices of tobacco, including those resulting from excise tax increases . . . reduce the prevalence and intensity of tobacco use among youth and adults.”

In an attempt to keep prices low, tobacco companies use special discounts and promotions that make their products cheap to buy. Tobacco companies also make sure their addictive products are placed in highly visible areas that appeal to youth, such as near candy displays or at the checkout counter.

“Tobacco companies are using whatever tricks they can to get kids to try their products,” said Jeanne Prom, executive director for the Center. “Tobacco is big business and the industry works hard to replace the thousands of customers who die each year.”

Prom noted that tobacco prevention programs are essential in keeping the next generation tobacco free. “Nearly nine out of ten smokers had their first cigarette before age 18. That means if we can keep our kids tobacco free before age 18, most will never start to use tobacco,” Prom said.

To learn more about tobacco prevention contact Liz Bonney Tobacco Prevention Coordinator at 701-662-7022 or visit