Tobacco Targets Youth


The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting youth. Despite gains made in tobacco prevention in years past, tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,1 and far too many youth are still being deceived by the industry’s marketing tactics and picking up the deadly habit. “Tobacco Targets Youth” is an educational campaign to raise awareness and educate Jefferson County residents about how youth are being targeted by the tobacco industry and how easy it still is for youth to access and use tobacco products.

Tobacco Use and Trends Among High School Students in Colorado, 2015 2

Ever smoked a whole cigarette 20%
Current cigarette use 8.6%
Current e-cigarette use 26%
Current smokeless tobacco use 4.9%
Current cigar/little cigar use 8.9%
Tried to quit in the past year
(among current smokers)
Easy or very easy to get cigarettes
(only among those 17 years old and younger)
Attempted to purchase cigarettes and were able to buy (only among those 17 years old and younger) 67%

Exposed to Tobacco Marketing:

  • Tobacco companies spent more than 9 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the United States in 2014 (that’s nearly $25 million each day). 95% of that budget is spent on tactics in the retail setting.3
    • These tactics, such as advertising placement and pricing schemes, are known to influence youth towards smoking, contributing to increased initiation, experimentation and regular smoking.
  • According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tobacco companies advertise heavily at retail outlets where adolescents shop, such as near schools and playgrounds, with large signs visible from outside the stores.4
  • The Surgeon General has reported that the more young people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke.5
  • The tobacco industry continues to produce and sell products that are appealing to youth such as little cigars, e-cigarettes, and e-juices in kid-friendly flavors such as cotton candy and bubble gum.
  • A 2014 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that there is a link between exposure to e-cigarette advertisements and the use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students, concluding that efforts to reduce youth exposure to advertising are critical to prevent youth from using e-cigarettes as well as other tobacco products.6
  • The 2014 Surgeon General’s report states that “the tobacco industry continues to position itself to sustain its sales by recruiting youth and young adults…as consumers of all their nicotine-containing products including cigarettes.”7
  • The National Cancer Institute also reported that tobacco company advertising targets specific populations, such as youth, by using themes that resonate with them such as smoking being able to satisfy adolescents’ need to be popular, feel attractive, take risks, or manage stress.8

Did you know?

  • According to the CDC, current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013-2014.9
  • Additionally, e-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in the United States with three million middle and high school students having used e-cigarettes in 2015.10
  • Read the latest 2016 Surgeon General’s Report: E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults
    • Nicotine is a highly addictive and harmful drug, and the Surgeon General’s report highlights that nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs.
  • E-cigarette cartridges may be filled with substances other than nicotine, thus possibly serving as a new and potentially dangerous way to deliver other drugs.
  • Learn more about e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

Effective Strategies to Reduce Youth Access to Tobacco:6in10_web

  • In all but nine Colorado communities, tobacco retailers are not required to have a tobacco license, unlike the license required to sell alcohol. This means that tobacco can be sold by anyone anywhere in most Colorado communities. The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium states that policies to increase and enforce restrictions on illegal sales to minors, such as licensing of tobacco retailers, are essential in preventing youth from using tobacco.11
    • Licensing tobacco retailers is proven approach that helps prevent illegal sales of tobacco to minors and reduces youth access and use of tobacco.
    • Tobacco retail licensing laws help identify where tobacco products are being sold in a community, similar to licensing laws that apply to alcohol and marijuana retailers.
    • Tobacco retail licensing serves as a means to better enforce all current tobacco-related laws, including state and federal, and to increase certain youth-specific protections such as prohibiting self-service displays, increasing clerk age to sell tobacco and limiting the number of tobacco retailers located near schools. Communities can even choose to include certain drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers, to be covered by a tobacco retail licensing law.
    • View this fact sheet and infographic about tobacco retail licensing.
    • Learn more about licensing from the Public Health Law CenterChangeLab Solutions and The Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing.
  • There is also no minimum age limit for those who sell tobacco in Colorado. A 2001 study indicated that sales clerks under the age of 18 are more likely than clerks 18 or older to sell tobacco to minors.12
  • View this infographic to learn more about how raising the minimum legal sale age of tobacco to 21 can decrease tobacco initiation and addiction.
  • Additionally, smoke-free laws have been proven as an effective strategy to reduce youth smoking.13

Communities in Colorado that have Tobacco Licensing Laws:

Here are some ways YOU can help protect Jeffco youth from tobacco: 

Get involved:
Attend the quarterly Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance meeting. Check our homepage for details on upcoming meetings.

If you are a high school student you can also get involved with a local youth Breathe Easy (BE) Team.

Consider getting involved in Citizens for a Healthier Lakewood, a coalition working on preventing youth access to tobacco in the City of Lakewood. All are welcome – perhaps your community could be next!

Recruit others:
The Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance and youth Breathe Easy Teams welcome new members at any time throughout the year.

Be social:
Find the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

Find BE Teams on Facebook and Instagram.

Report violations:
If you notice someone under age 18 purchasing tobacco you can report it as a violation. Call the Colorado Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division at 303-205-2302 or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at 1-877-287-1373. Complaints can also be submitted to the FDA online.

Get educated:
Check out this website to learn more about various tobacco prevention topics.

Be tobacco-free:
If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start! If you currently use tobacco, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Find free resources and support to help you quit on our Thinking of Quitting page.

Contact us:
Fill out the form below to send a message, request information or get involved.

I am interested in:

Attending the next Tobacco-Free Jeffco Alliance meeting
Getting involved with the youth Breathe Easy team
Spreading the word about tobacco prevention in Jeffco and recruiting new members
Lending a hand at community education and outreach events
Learning about ways to quit tobacco

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