How to discourage teenagers from smoking

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How to discourage teenagers from smoking

When I was young, underage smoking was regarded as a terrible misdeed that students must not do. But as I grow up, underage smoking is being considered as a trivial habit since an increasing number of students do not even try to hide it.

Although smoking harms everybody, I think it’s more important to first reduce the number of underage smokers. In 2012, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (predecessor of the current Ministry of Education), a national average for underage smoking hit 11.4 percent. What’s even worse is that a starting age of smoking is getting younger and younger. Grown-ups can make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions, but adolescents can’t.

Tobacco companies appear to be manipulating people’s perceptions about smoking. They make a great effort to plant a “cool” image of celebrity smokers in the minds of the young through subtle but powerful marketing campaigns. And they keep displaying fancy cigarettes right behind the cashier in convenience stores so that they can allure potential consumers. Moreover, cigarette packs in Korea do not include any graphic warning, and written caution is in smaller fonts than in other countries. To help discourage teenagers from smoking, the government must do something about displaying cigarettes and the packaging of cigarettes. Statics show that cigarette packs with a graphic warning decreased the number of smokers by 2 to 5 percent.

While adults are better equipped with self-restraint to resist the temptation to smoke, vulnerable and highly impressionable adolescents have a harder time resisting if cigaratte temptation is found ubiquitously. We can’t just tell them not to smoke if they are constantly surrounded by fancy cool cigarettes. It’s time our government and tobacco companies take responsibility and toughen the regulations for cigarette packaging.

* The author is A student of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

by Min Sun-ju
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