Today, America's kids are standing up to the tobacco industry for the 20th annual Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. I've invited Magi Linscott to submit this post discussing how the tobacco industry still targets kids - and what kids are doing to fight back.
Ms. Linscott, 19, from Pace, Florida, was the 2014 National Youth Advocate of the Year for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In Florida, she inspired a campaign called "Not a Replacement" that was such a great idea that we helped her expand it to the whole country, But I'll let her tell the story.
You may think tobacco companies have stopped marketing their deadly and addictive products to young people, but they haven't. In fact, Big Tobacco is constantly searching for new ways to make tobacco look appealing, and they're aiming these tactics at young people like me.
Tobacco companies spend $8.8 billion a year - $1 million every hour - to market their products and much of that advertising is geared toward kids and young adults. Magazines that my friends and I read, like Sports Illustrated, Glamour and Rolling Stone, are filled with slick advertisements for tobacco products. The ads portray smoking as fun, glamorous and sexy.
When I walk into a convenience store, I can easily spot where the tobacco products are located. It's impossible to miss the ads and discounts that make these products appealing and affordable to kids.
While a federal law banned cigarettes with candy and fruit flavors, this flavor ban doesn't apply to cigars, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. So tobacco companies market cheap, sweet and colorfully packaged cigars, and e-cigarettes come in thousands of flavors, with names such as "gummy bear" and "cotton candy."
Speaking of e-cigarettes, youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. E-cigarette marketing threatens to make smoking look glamorous again by using many of the same tactics used to market regular cigarettes: celebrity endorsements, TV and magazine ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts.
I joined the fight against tobacco to spread the message that tobacco use is harmful and to warn my peers about the tobacco industry's devious marketing tactics. I know firsthand how harmful tobacco can be: My grandmother smoked her first cigarette when she was 11. The addiction ultimately took her life.
Tobacco kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, most of whom - like my grandmother - began smoking as kids. One tobacco industry document even labeled kids "replacement smokers" for those who die from tobacco use.
But I'm not OK with that label. No one should be. That's why I helped create the #NotAReplacement campaign.
Kids are sharing selfies to let Big Tobacco know they aren't replacement smokers - they're musicians, athletes, advocates, nerds and so much more. The selfies can be seen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the #NotAReplacement hashtag (view the #NotAReplacement selfie gallery).
And today, kids are participating in the 20th annual Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. At more than 1,000 events across the country, kids are encouraging their peers to stay tobacco-free and demanding that tobacco companies stop marketing to them.
We've come a long way in reducing youth smoking, and I truly believe we can make the next generation tobacco-free. But we must keep up the fight to protect kids from Big Tobacco's efforts to lure them into a deadly addiction.
For more information on Kick Butts Day, visit www.kickbuttsday.org. To learn more about how tobacco companies market their products to kids, visit www.tobaccofreekids.org. Or take a look at this brand new film, coming to a social media app near you...
Here are a few of today's newest postings: