Today I’m sharing a little known fact about me. One that I’m not proud of.
When I was in college I worked promotions for a major tobacco company, handing out free cans of dip at summer concerts and fairs. I traveled all over Western and Central New York meeting people far and wide that not only took the can not knowing what it was, but they’d also fill out a full page document with all of their information without batting an eyelash.
It seemed like I was merely a prop who wore costumes to fit the bill that night: cowgirl, referee, or school girl. One that was used like bait to hook new customers. It felt dirty like I was preying on individuals that would fall into the tobacco trap, and I cringe thinking about how many people I started on the road to tobacco so long as they showed their ID.
I didn’t last long.
The effects of dipping were not lost on me — I vividly remembered the pictures of oral cancer-causing leukoplakia from health class — but when you’re young it’s easy to feel invincible. You may be shaking your head saying that I should have known better, and while I agree, I want you to read this next fact:
The average age of a new smoker in New York State is only 13 years old.
I took that same health class when I was 13. Kids that are being taught all the facts about tobacco — ones that have just been shown the horrible photos of the consequences are still jumping straight on the bandwagon.
Promotions for chewing tobacco aren’t the only ones out there. When I would hop on tour with my husband, I’d see one particular brand have employees come through venues promising anyone who showed a pack of cigarettes a free brass Zippo lighter. They would even engrave their initials on it while they watched.
Most of the people going to see his band were definitely not old enough to be smoking. They mostly looked 14.
These companies play dirty.
Now that I’m a mom, advertising campaigns like these scare the tar out of me (pun intended) for my own child’s sake.
There are plenty of reasons to worry about our kids these days, but sometimes there are silent killers like tobacco.
As a kid, I vividly remember getting stomach aches at the bowling alley, sleeping at hotels cloaked with the last guest’s smoke, and smelling cigarette fumes pour out of the door of the smoking section in restaurants every time it swung open.
I want better for my son, so I’m teaching him to make healthy choices about what he puts in his body starting now. When he is a bit older, I will speak about the harm that tobacco does on and in the body.
In the meantime, I’m doing my best to better the world around us.
The Seen Enough Tobacco pledge aims to reduce the exposure that kids have to tobacco in stores around NYS. Tobacco companies currently spend billions of dollars marketing in shops to put their products in front of kids.
They have seen enough.
I’m hoping that this initiative will make New York a healthier place to live, work, and play.