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Smoking in the Media Tips

Learn the sneaky ways that cigarette companies target your kids -- and why you don't have to put up with it.

Behind the smokescreen

Cigarette marketing has come a long way. Today tobacco products are banned from commercials and smoking is on the decline. But don't be fooled. Tobacco companies still spend almost $10 billion a year on marketing. And most of that goes to programs that make cigarettes cheaper -- meaning more accessible to kids.

Smoking continues to show up in movies and in social media marketing. Plus, new products like e-cigs and flavored cigarettes are gaining popularity with kids. And once they're hooked, they're likely to continue the unhealthy habit into adulthood.

So how can you counter all the messages to light up?

Parent tips for younger kids

  • Try to keep your children away from ads and entertainment with smoking. Tell them that smoking makes people really sick – and makes them smell bad!
  • Deglamorize cigarette smoking in entertainment. Talk with your kids about smoking scenes. Ask your kids if they realize that cigarette companies have used product placement to lure them into being future smokers.
  • Share smoking facts. Kids think they're immune and immortal. The death statistics could be eye-opening, even for the "won't happen to me" age group.

Parent tips for middle and high school kids

  • Don't buy in. Debunk myths about cigarettes and weight management and about "light" cigarettes. Don't let your kids buy posters of "cool" movie characters or celebrities who are smoking.
  • Don't kid yourself. Young teens are influenced profoundly by celebrity behavior, and they will do whatever it takes to be cool. If you suspect your teen is smoking, it's time for a tough talk on the health consequences of the choice they're making.
Caroline Knorr
Caroline is Common Sense Media's former parenting editor. She has many years of editorial and creative marketing writing experience and has held senior-level positions at Walmart.com, Walmart stores, Cnet, and Bay Area Parent magazine. She specializes in translating complex information into bite-sized chunks to help families make informed choices about what their kids watch, play, read, and do.