Los Angeles Times Examines Use of Peer Pressure to Reduce Youth Smoking Rates
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined how students across the state are organizing groups and using peer pressure to convince fellow classmates not to smoke. The social pressure against smoking has "filtered to young people" in California, resulting in declining smoking rates among teenagers, the Times reports. Last year, 5.9% of youths ages 12 to 17 reported smoking a cigarette in the previous 30 days, compared to 11% in 1994, according to the Department of Health Services. Those numbers reflect a national decline in smoking rates among teenagers; according to the CDC, 28% of high school students said they had smoked in the last month, compared to 36% in 1997. Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research said the rates decreased in part because "children saw themselves as being manipulated" by tobacco companies. He added, "Kids have come to see a number of drugs as dangerous in the last several years; peer norms are changing." In addition, students are organizing their own anti-smoking campaigns targeting their peers. For example, members of the Regional Youth Consulting Firm, which is supported by the anti-smoking organization L.A. LINK, have developed a series of radio and television ads called the Toxic Comedy Campaign. The ads, which use professional comedians to deliver the tag line, "You're killing us ... (Really)," have appeared on MTV, BET and the Comedy Channel (Rivera, Los Angles Times, 6/9).
Earlier this month, Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) introduced an amendment to a bill (AB 1453) that would raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. Summaries of some recent editorials on the amendment appear below.
Bakersfield Californian: While "any effort to curb teenage smoking is commendable," the amendment is "putting more smoke than fire into the effort" to reduce youth smoking rates, the editorial states. The editorial adds that there is "no evidence" and increase in the smoking age would reduce smoking rates and proposes that a "more effective move" would be enforcing existing laws that ban the sale of cigarettes to minors (Bakersfield Californian, 6/9).
Oakland Tribune: The amendment "does not represent an effective means" of limiting youth smoking rates and should be "toss[ed] ... into [the] lawmaking ashtray," the editorial states. The editorial supports using education and fiscal policy rather than an "arbitrary age-correlated prohibition" to stop children from using tobacco because "however high a legal bar lawmakers want to set ... kids who are determined to light up will find a way to obtain cigarettes" (Oakland Tribune, 6/10).
- Sacramento Bee: Columnist Diana Griego Erwin writes that although she has "no idea whether raising the legal age on smoking to 21 might result in fewer teens becoming addicted to [the] unhealthful and disgusting habit" of smoking, she is confident that the amendment alone "won't do it." She proposes that teenagers need "more responsible adults" who decide "not to ignore the law" that already prevents minors from purchasing tobacco. She concludes that the state may need an anti-smoking campaign that focuses on parents (Erwin, Sacramento Bee, 6/11).