Teen obesity is the panic du jour, but, as Tina Rosenberg reports for the New York Times, "it may be even more important to attack teenage smoking than obesity." The problem is that the health hazard messages and PSAs made for adults just don't reach kids.
Any teenager could explain why. For them, a cigarette is not a delivery system for nicotine. It's a delivery system for rebellion. Kids take up smoking to be cool, to impress their friends with their recklessness and defiance of adults. Teenagers don't care about lung cancer - they're immortal. They know that smoking is dangerous. In fact, they overestimate the chances of getting lung cancer. Danger is part of a cigarette's appeal.
One idea? To make cigarettes less cool. Sure, there are those who believe the simple act of smoking itself — the inhale, the swirls of smoke, the slow exhale — is sexy, alluring, chic. But teens are into brands and branding, and, as Rosenberg reports, a study finds: "Teenagers see plain packs as less attractive, and believe their cigarettes don't taste as good. Teenagers label smokers of plain-pack cigarettes as less stylish and social."
Plain packaging also reduces a cigarette's value as a social cue with peers. Every time a teenage girl takes a pack out of her purse to get a cigarette, she is flashing all those brand associations at her friends as well. In short, plain packaging erases the cool factor that comes from smoking a specific brand.
Image via Sinisa Botas/Shutterstock.