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