It has long been known that smoking as few as five cigarettes a day is sufficient to elevate the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other complications. Recent research suggests, alarmingly, that addiction may set it in from the very first cigarette: a confirmation of the tobacco industry's intentions in targeting the young. A single dose of nicotine has been shown in lab studies to trigger changes in brain physiology and function that set up the vicious circle of craving, withdrawal, and dependence. A significant proportion of patients seeking to kick the habit at physicians' clinics and rehabilitation centres are adolescents who have been smoking fewer than five cigarettes a day for less than six months, yet find themselves growing dependant on tobacco for normal functioning.
The FDA's claim that it cannot regulate tobacco advertising because tobacco does not claim to be a health-promoting product (unlike food, supplements, or medicines) is unconvincing. Tobacco sale and advertising needs to be regulated all the more tightly because it is so explicitly a health-damaging product. Developmental psychologists know that the decision-making areas of the brain are not fully developed until the early twenties: allowing young people to be exposed to intensive and meticulous tobacco advertising and leaving them to decide is a fundamentally unsound decision. Moreover, while all advertising relies of exaggeration and departure from fact, advertising for tobacco is blatantly false and misleading in connecting healthy, beautiful people, places, and activities with smoking, and broadcasting these images so intensively that the real and present dangers of smoking may become invisible to young people.
I believe the health of our young citizens is more important than the profits of the tobacco industry. As an agency of a democratically elected government in our country, the FDA must above all protect the people's interest. I believe that interest cannot be served except by urgently amending the laws to restrict tobacco advertising to the young. Left to themselves, neither the tobacco industry nor young people make the right choice. As our elected government, I call upon you to place guidelines firmly in place to protect our health.
I selected this topic because I have always been irked by how shamelessly false tobacco advertising is. Most advertising today takes the focus away from the physical product and tries to convey the lifestyle or image the product supposedly promotes or creates; but in the case of advertising for tobacco the product disappears entirely and we are left with images of lush leisurely lifestyles which have no connection at all with the use of tobacco. While most people know that smoking is injurious to health, such false and aggressive advertising makes this fact recede into the background and people accept this fictitious association between smoking and pleasure. Advertising that targets young people, playing on their most intimate desires and fears - the desire to be beautiful and attractive, the fear of being unpopular - definitely oversteps the line of decency.
While researching this topic I was astonished at the depth of falsehood to which tobacco advertising has sunk. There is nothing positive tobacco has scrupled to associate itself with, including romance, femininity, liberty,