Although pre-teens and teens may be pressured by their peers to pick up a cigarette, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that marketing influences them even more.
The campaign found that youth are three times more likely to be influenced by the marketing than adults and one third of their experimentation with tobacco is attributed to marketing.
To learn more about the marketing and advertising strategies of tobacco companies, the Buena Vista County chapter of 'Teens Against Tobacco Use,' consisting of a team of students and staff from BVU and the BV County Health Department, visited 11 establishments across Storm Lake Tuesday evening as part of "Operation Storefront. T.A.T.U. is a program associated with the American Lung Association.
"(The purpose of Operation Storefront) is to see how accessible tobacco products are, especially to youth," said Nona Sand, BV County Tobacco Prevention Coordinator.
The T.A.T.U. students did a visual inspection of the advertising both inside and outside of each establishment. With each inspection students looked at how close the establishment was to a school or playground and if tobacco products were self-serve, in a locked case or another location that required assistance from the clerk.
They also looked for tobacco advertisement signs, antismoking signs and indications that the establishment "carded" customers. According to Sand, the point of the project wasn't to point fingers at establishments but collect information for statistics. The results of the information found will be discussed during a tobacco coalition meeting.
Before 'Operation Storefront' the T.A.T.U. students who had teamed up with The BV County health department also visited classrooms in Albert City, Sioux Central, Fonda, Alta, and St. Mary's and Concordia to present the message of the dangers of smoking to the six graders, and served as mentors. "The younger kids learn from their peers," said Sand.
The presentations included fun interactive activities and skits to engage the youth and keep their attention. They just liked participating," said student volunteer Andrea Ahrensen. "They weren't shy at all."
One skit included showing students the different ingredients in tobacco products, like arsenic which is found in rat poison, acetone which is found in nail polish and alluminum.
"You wouldn't eat that or drink that so why would want to put that in your body by smoking," said Sand. Some might find the facts the college students shared to be harsh and the images of the lung damage or gangrene to be too gruesome, however, Sand said she felt this was a more realistic and effective teaching tool.
"Sometimes the shock value is what will sit with them," she said. "You almost have to scare them."
One of T.A.T.U's main goal is to help prevent teens from ever lighting up. Many of the BVU student volunteers who are part of the T.A.T.U. program join because they feel strongly about tobacco prevention especially among children, like volunteer Andrea Ahrendsen. "(I joined) just because I know when I was younger I went through programs like D.A.R.E. It's (T.A.T.U.) a good message for kids to hear," she said. D.A.R.E is an acronym for the nationwide program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education. For some of the students who are part of the program, they have personal stories to share about family or friends they've lost to smoking.
"My Grandma died of throat cancer," said Greg Opseth. "I've always been against smoking. I just want these kids to know that smoking kills. It doesn't kill you quickly, it kills you slowly."
The T.A.T.U. group this year was lead by Jeremy Ward, Assistant Director of Health Services at BVU; Nona Sand, BV County Tobacco Prevention Coordinator helped with meetings and Tami Lauresen, Director of Health Services served as an advisor.