Time to ban all tobacco ads, for the kids?

The group estimates $15 billion is spent on tobacco marketing each year, and ads are linked to one-third of the smoking done by teenagers.

After four decades of steadily-increasing restrictions on advertising, tobacco use seems stuck at the 20% rate.

That's half what it was in the fictional Don Draper's heyday (he's puffing disguised cloves) but still enough to make tobacco one of the leading cause for the future deaths of today's kids.

(Picture from a CBS News feature on how the Mad Men life style will kill you if you try it. Just three more episodes of the popular AMC show left for this season. Talk about withdrawal symptoms.)

Pediatricians have had enough of it. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it wants all tobacco advertising banned. It also wants new limits on alcohol ads, on ads for Viagra and similar drugs, and more media use in anti-tobacco education.

I'm thinking the same thing you are. Good luck with that.

The group estimates $15 billion is spent on tobacco marketing each year, and ads are linked to one-third of the smoking done by teenagers. Some of that is inside shows -- the group estimates 20% of shows have at least one smoker in the cast.

The group has 17 recommendations in total, most of which will cause more than a little heartburn and anger on Madison Avenue and wherever TV ads are sold. The report even calls tobacco a gateway drug, saying kids who smoke or drink are 65 times more likely to eventually do marijuana than those who don't.

Naturally the tobacco industry is still defending itself. And its defense may be aided by the wide-ranging nature of the recommendations:

  1. Don't let kids have TVs in their rooms.
  2. Keep them away from those PG-13 movies.
  3. And that world wide web is nasty, too.

I'm on the libertarian side in this debate. Tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs are reality in this society. Denying that, keeping kids further cocooned from that reality, may just extend childhoods that are already getting dangerously close to age 30.

There is a reason these substances are legal, why they're not banned already. Pretending that kids can be shielded from that debate until they're thoroughly indoctrinated, and only then be let in on society's secrets, has already infantilized a generation.

If it were up to me, we'd talk about these substances sooner, not later. And in an even-handed way, not in the "education" method so beloved of this last generation.

This may be why I'm a journalist instead of a politicisn.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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