My name is Yara Almakkawi. As a concerned citizen and public health student, I urge you as our congressional representative to support the bill prohibiting advertising and promoting tobacco use to minors. As of now, I am certain you are aware of the recent report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable diseases and premature deaths. In addition, as the youths smoke cigarettes, they are also exposed to other kinds of illegal drugs which contribute to high adolescent mortality. Although it is illegal for underage to purchase cigarettes, the tobacco industry has largely been targeting young people in their advertising campaigns. It is unfortunate that despite existing laws that prohibit minor-oriented campaigns, the dangerous promotions still find their way through to teenagers.
It is estimated that cigarette smoking deaths, which are about 400000 annually, cost the society up to $52 billion dollars. It is high time for the community as a whole, stepped up and coordinated our efforts against the rising epidemic. The aggressive campaigns by the tobacco industry often target the youths and creates an environment perceived to be healthy and cool for smoking. Nearly 90% of the tobacco users develop the habit before the age of 20. Majority of the cigarette-related health complication arise late in life. It was established that of the 434, 000 tobacco-related deaths in 1998, 50% of them started smoking at the age of 13 while 25% were 11 years. Tobacco use is becoming a silent killer of the young generation. A close at the will reveal that smoking at a tender age is not an accident, but a carefully crafted marketing strategy for teenagers in order to increase market share, and to also instill the habit in the youths knowing well they will smoke even in their adulthood.
I believe that coming up with rules in the following areas is significant public health sector. Prohibit advertising and promotion campaign that is appealing to children and teenagers. Tobacco companies should not sponsor any events that have an appeal to young people such as sporting events and spring break activities. They should not come up with products specially designed to be desirable to the teenagers, for example, candy cigarettes, flavored cigarettes and chewing gums with brand names create a positive name for the company without showing the side effect of smoking. Laws should enforce the existing laws that prohibit cigarette purchase to under18 especially in places such as vending machines. Please, make the health our children a priority. Support the legislation that makes it illegal to market, promote, or sponsor cigarette smoking in children.