We need a media invasion

Christen Mullet

First, I would like to thank the authors of the article in response to my own titled “Can the government force you to be healthy?” They wrote a very thorough, fair and civil article, proving that dissenters do not have to be hostile.

The professors made some excellent points about the health risks and costs of smoking. They also highlighted my lack of discussion about teens and smoking, which was purposeful on my part since it did not relate to my main topic of concern. I would, however, like to address that issue now and offer an alternate solution to the problem of teen smoking.

I still do not agree that these gruesome pictures are going to keep teenagers from beginning to smoke. First of all, many people forget that teenagers are not so different from adults, and the use of these pictures in other countries has shown that they do not make a difference with older people. Secondly, many kids will be exposed to these pictures only from buying a pack off of someone or seeing them plastered all over a friend’s cigarette pack. In this case, they are already at a greater risk of starting to smoke. Peers are the largest influence in the lives of teens, so I do not believe the pictures will have any effect on a teen who already hangs out with peers who smoke. Thirdly, I was a teenager not too long ago, and I know from experience that teens are more likely to laugh at the pictures than heed their warnings.

This issue is kind of like sex education. Educators can preach abstinence until their throats go numb, but teens will still have sex. Same thing here – the pictures could be everywhere and kids will still ignore them and start smoking if their friends do because it is still considered cool to smoke.

My suggestion is a campaign to make smoking unpopular by eliciting the support of popular actors, musicians and celebrities. If these influential people tell their fans that smoking is not cool, kids are less likely to start smoking.

We can start by removing positive references to smoking from movies, television, music and even social media. The key is creating an atmosphere around kids that discourages smoking by using media to get the message across that smoking is not cool anymore. When kids are no longer bombarded with images that paint smoking in a positive light, they can start to understand that it is not something that popular people do. Because kids often imitate their favorite actors, musicians and celebrities, seeing their idol respond negatively to smoking may make teens less likely to try it themselves. The absence of cigarettes in the hands of their idols will go a long way toward deterring kids from the habit.

Campaigns such as the “Above the Influence” ads are a start, but I think we need the support of popular media icons in order to get the ball rolling – people kids actually look up to. Once the media has begun to eat away at the positive image of cigarettes, kids will get the message from their peers as well that smoking is just not worth it.

Christen Mullett is a senior psychology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].