The statistics show that on average around the world 2/3rds of smokers started to smoke when they there were children, and even now, with the heavy focus on how smoking can kill you, there are still enormous amounts of children that smoke.
If we take a look at some of the global statistics around this area, then they are truly shocking.
- In England for example there are estimated to be 140,000 children between the ages of 11 and 15 who regularly smoke.
- In the United States it is estimated by the American Lung Association that there are 3,900 children under the age of 18 who try their first cigarette every day, and that of that number 950 will become regular, daily smokers and half of them will die as a direct result of smoking.
- Russia is even worse, with the World Health Organization estimating that approximately a third of all teenagers in Russia are regular smokers and that 40% of girls and 50% of boys smoke during the senior grades of school. In fact, in Russia, an estimated 440,000 people die from smoking cigarettes every year, and it is reckoned that 6.6% of the countries entire GDP is spent every year needlessly because of smoking-related deaths.
The impact that children smoking has around the world is truly profound, both in terms of early deaths that could otherwise have been prevented, and also in wider social implications. This is now becoming more widely recognized, but the fact is that some countries have such large numbers of people that smoke that it can sometimes be difficult to force change through, even when it is clearly in the wider health, social and financial interests of the country.
It is therefore only recently for example that legislation has been proposed in Russia that attempts to combat the problem of children starting to smoke early in life by proposing that advertisements promoting cigarettes be banned.
This is in answer to statistics that reveal how important children are to the smoking companies in terms of continuing the conveyor belt of consumers for their products. In Russia for example it has been shown that fully 90% of smokers took up the habit properly before they had reached the age of 20.
In reality children are much more susceptible to the messages that are often communicated in advertisements for cigarettes, such as that smoking is cool, for rebels, for individuals, for people who don’t toe the line, for renegades. All the same types of messages that were very much in evidence in UK and US advertisements for smoking that were predicated around such figures as the Marlboro Cowboy.
The facts however of what cigarette smoking really means for the future of those children who develop a regular habit are unfortunately starker. For example, two of the actors who played the “Marlboro Cowboy” in the adverts died of lung cancer, and one of the families even sued Philip Morris.
The future remains hopeful, however, as real scientific evidence is now conclusive as to the harm that cigarette smoking causes, and it looks likely that around the world legislation to try to stop children from taking up smoking will become increasingly more common.