Editorials

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 6, 1996 | Go to article overview

Editorials


Creative idea to cut teen smoking

As you are reading this, 136 teenagers are getting out the lumber for their coffins. That is how many young people become regular smokers each day in Illinois. Smoking by teens is at its highest level in 16 years.

Illinois intends to get this serious public health problem under control, and the suburbs will have a lot to say about how that is done. DuPage County is one of five areas in the state that have been chosen as test spots to find ways to reduce teen smoking.

Several strategies can be pursued by the Illinois Liquor Commission, which is under orders from state lawmakers to come up with a plan to restrict youngsters' access to tobacco. But it ought to look at what is happening in Massachusetts, which has a creative anti-teen smoking plan.

Massachusetts public health officials say they are trying to beat the tobacco companies at their own aggressive marketing game. They have an ad campaign that gives out retail rewards for not smoking. Anyone under 18 who pledges not to smoke receives a "smoke-free" card. They use this card to get 10 to 20 percent discounts at shopping mall-based retail outlets such as Footlocker and Coconuts and restaurants such as McDonald's and Bertucci's. The card is also good at video rental stores and cinemas.

Certainly, the program relies on a tenuous honor system. But it certainly is a novel commercial counter to cigarette advertising that is worth exploring.

Similarly, an Illinois anti-smoking campaign may want to consider including distribution of apparel with an anti-smoking theme or logo as an answer to the hats and shirts, produced by tobacco companies, that youth find appealing. The key, though, would be to make the anti-smoking garb fashionable and desirable. This could be done in cooperation with sports apparel and teen clothing retailers and designers. …

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