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Helping Youth Make Healthy and Informed Decisions

Kids Tobacco Watch Program

Through a one hour educational seminar, the Kids Tobacco Watch Program helps children to understand health risks associated with smoking and to recognize the ways in which big tobacco companies target young people. This free service is available in schools and mentoring programs for youth between ages 6 and 15, and each seminar is individually tailored to reach specific audiences and age groups. Our approach is interactive: in addition to providing basic facts and statistics about smoking and addiction, participants will have a chance to look at cigarette advertisements in magazines and talk about the ways in which these ads are designed to appeal to young people. The Kids Tobacco Watch Program helps today's youth say no to smoking and, in the process, become more media-savvy and resilient throughout their lives. If you are interested in having a presentation given at your school or mentoring program, please contact our Education Coordinator at (518) 583-4990 or Saratogafoundation@earthlink.net.

TOBACCO REPORT CARD: New York State Receives an F

While small improvements have been made to tobacco legislation over the past two decades, New York's smoking report card continues to be abysmal. Since the 1998 passage of the Master Settlement Agreement, the state has received upwards of $2,703 million from major tobacco companies. Yet only $40 million annually is funneled into the comprehensive tobacco control program. While this sum may, on the surface, appear substantial, it is less than one half of the amount that the Centers for Disease Control deem necessary for effectiveness. So, where is the rest of the money going?

That question is difficult to answer. The most likely response is that the money is being funneled into the system to help solve constant budget woes. What is certain is that the money is not being used, as the Master Settlement Agreement intended but did not enforce, to fund tobacco control and prevention or to aid the passage of smoke-free legislation. While New York has in one way been successful in decreasing youth access to tobacco products - $1.50 per pack excise tax is the highest in the nation – this initiative is not nearly enough: 27% of New York high school students and 9% of middle school students remain regular smokers.

Tobacco report card and funding information gathered from the American Lung Association at www.lungusa.org.


About 400,000 people die as the result of smoking every year. That's more deaths than from AIDS, car accidents, homicide, suicide, drugs and fire combined. This is because smoking is a major factor in the two top causes of death in the United States today: cancer and heart disease. Lung cancer claims the most lives of any form of cancer, and 87% of all lung cancer cases are the result of smoking. Smoking also accounts for 1/5 of all heart disease deaths.

It is also important to acknowledge that almost 90% of all smokers begin before age eighteen. Every day, 5000 kids try their first cigarette and 2000 other kids under 18 become regular smokers. A third of these smokers will eventually die as the result of their smoking.

More than 15 million children are exposed to secondhand smoke every day. As a result of this exposure, it is estimated that over 2 million children either visit physicians or are hospitalized every year. These children are suffering from bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and tonsilitis. Kids are also at risk of developing deadly respiratory illnesses and even being injured or killed in fires caused by smoking.

Children who do not acquire serious illness as the result of exposure to secondhand smoke still may suffer from persistent coughs, wheezing, and recurrent eye and ear infections. The longer and more frequently children are exposed to secondhand smoke, the worse effects it will have on their health. Recent studies have shown that even tobacco residuals, left in hair and on clothing after somebody smokes, can be dangerous to the health of children who come in contact with them.


A study conducted by The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that while peer pressure is a factor in teen smoking, teens are more likely to be influenced by cigarette advertisements. The truth in these results is evident in the fact that 87% of adolescent smokers prefer Marlboro, Newport, or Camel - the most heavily advertised cigarette brands. Moreover, children as young as six are able to name these brands, and when Joe Camel was a huge marketing device for Camel cigarettes, children could recognize him just as easily as Mickey Mouse.

Although tobacco companies are not allowed to advertise in children's magazines, they make up for it by advertising heavily in adult magazines that have large teen readerships, like Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and People. The subjects portrayed in these ads often look more like teenagers than adults and are depicted engaging in whimsical, child-like activities, such as rollerblading, basketball and dancing. These advertisements also include captions encouraging teenagers to "Take a few liberties," or "Start thinking about number one," suggesting that smoking is a way to exercise freedom and individuality.

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