Friday, 2 September 2011

Why do Children take up Smoking

A recent report on BBc Radio 4 has drawn attention to the fact that Philip Morris International – a tobacco company that manufactures Marlboro cigarettes - has tried to force the University of Stirling to hand over data gathered from research into the smoking habits of young people. The researchers are considering recommending to the Government that cigarettes are sold only in plain packets and are not on public display in retail outlets licensed to sell them.
One fact that has been established is that virtually all adult smokers have taken up the habit when they were children or teenagers. That is, it is very unusual indeed for people to take up smoking in their twenties and beyond.
The other established fact is that, even with the reduced prevalence of smoking, 100,000 people in the United Kingdom die from smoking related illness every year.
One may speculate as to why Philip Morris International is so anxious to obtain this data. It is difficult to ignore the possibility that it may have an interest in ensuring that young people continue to take up the habit, in order that their very considerable revenues be sustained. For if children and teenagers could be effectively discouraged from smoking, then there would be a dramatic fall in the sale of tobacco products. On the premise that the highly addictive properties of nicotine will ensure that they will continue to buy cigarettes into and throughout adulthood, it is a reasonable to conclude that the tobacco companies get people started on their products while young.
For whatever reason, adults would seem to be much less inclined to take up smoking when they have not smoked as children or teenagers. But if young people are being perceived as a legitimate target for the tobacco companies then there has to be cause for grave concern. Because it is their lives and health that are being put at risk.
I ask myself – just how long must this cynical and perverse approach to be allowed to continue in order that money might be made out of vulnerable young people? For the price that the children and teenagers pay is not counted in cash alone: for the majority of them will pay, in the end, in suffering and early death.

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