France has one of the worst records of smoking cases among young people in Europe, because most people begin smoking at 12 years old. In addition, 40% of regular smokers are between ages 16 and 25. These figures are particularly alarming because the earlier one starts smoking, the faster they become addicted to nicotine, making it difficult to quit.
While government regulations have rolled back tobacco companies' ability to market their products, the tobacco industry is still largely to blame for this trend. Manufacturers are always looking for new products to attract young people and ensure their future profits.
Indeed, well aware that their product kills one in two people, tobacco companies have adopted new ways of marketing towards youngsters. One of them is products segmentation, which tends to offer tobacco products with different tastes like chocolate, vanilla, banana, or candy cigarettes. Unfortunately, this has worked perfectly; millions of youth got into smoking as a result way and become dependent to nicotine very quickly, due to psychoactive effect of the substance.
Tobacco kills 66,000 people in France every year, and 5 million in the world. It is also the leading cause of cancer risk. Indeed, it is responsible for cancer for 33% of men and 10% of women. One of two regular smokers dies prematurely, including 50% before the age of 65.
But, France is not the only country to be affected by this scourge. A recent report released by the Surgeon General has warned that smoking among young people has become an increasingly worrying issue in the United States. In fact, it has reached an epidemiology stage.
According to the report, 443,000 Americans die each year. Smoking costs the country 96 billion dollars in direct medical cost and “enact a heavy toll on young people.” Indeed, more than 600,000 middle school kids and 3 million high school students smoke. About 3,800 children try their first cigarette every day and the majority of today’s smokers (90%) started smoking before the age of 18.
The report has also blames tobacco companies for targeting young people. Yet faced with these accusations, the major companies defended themselves immediately. For instance, Altria Group, a subsidiary of the giant Philip Morris USA, issued a statement assuring that the majority of their marketing spending is done in the form of promotions.
The reality is that the marketing budgets of tobacco companies are long-term investments. Those firms now operate with the logic of “social attraction”; indeed, the aim is not the direct sell of the product any longer, but to influence its social and cultural significance. They have managed to do this well, in the sense that smoking has almost been standardized. In fact, the tobacco industry has successfully created the impression, among young people, that smoking was almost a universal habit. All the promotions around the products are actually designed to give the impression that the majority of people smoke and they are all happy with that, so why not you?