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Issues | Youth Opinion

Marlboro Man Hits the Trail

June 28, 1997

In a landmark settlement announced last week, cigarette manufacturers agreed to pay $368.5 billion in compensation, drastically alter their marketing programs and submit to FDA regulation. The money will be used to cover the states' health-care costs for smoking-related illnesses and promote educational programs aimed at deterring youths from taking up the habit. In exchange, the tobacco industry won immunity from future class actions and a ceiling on compensation claims of $5 billion annually. Before the settlement can go into effect, it must be approved by Congress and the White House. ANNA MARIE STOLLEY talked to teenagers about smoking, the impact of the settlement and the state's recent anti-smoking advertising campaign directed at youths.

CUEWAJI HOGAN

17, 1997 graduate, Narbonne High School, Harbor City

I do not smoke. I will not smoke. It is suicide. I grew up around smokers and that just turned me totally off to smoking. I've seen all the problems that my family has had from smoking, problems with breathing. My grandmother, she passed from a heart attack and she had emphysema. My mom and dad have been smoking ever since I can remember.

My family's smoking started to affect me when I was around 13. I couldn't sleep at night. I had shortness of breath and a knot in my chest. I wheezed. I went to the doctor and he said I have a form of bronchitis. He asked, "Does anyone in your family smoke?" I said, "Uh huh," and he said, "Well, that may be the cause."

My close friend started smoking because of stress. She tried just one cigarette and got addicted. She's been smoking about three months, but she knows I hate it. I move away from her when she lights up.

People should not smoke. Raising the price will not stop people. If they charged $10 a pack, people would still buy them. I've seen the posters against smoking; they should improve them. They should really, really show what smoking does to you.

If I made the posters, I would show a picture of a funeral. It would say, "Don't attend your own funeral." When you smoke, you don't just smoke and then in an instant you die. When you get cancer, you die slowly. They should ban smoking or you should have to be 35 to buy cigarettes because 18 is too young to make a decision about smoking.

JENNIFER MACKAY

18, retail salesperson, Culver City

Cigarettes are not that bad. They relax you. When I get in a bad mood, I smoke and then I'm fine.

In my family, everyone has smoked for years and nothing has ever happened to them. My dad, my aunts and uncles all smoked for over 30 years and they're fine.

The government shouldn't get involved. If people want to smoke, they should smoke. Leave them alone..

It should be my decision to stop. It's kind of like an American thing. The government should stick to wars and politics. I believe that smoking causes diseases, but I don't see it in my family. I could get sick from it, and if I thought about it more, maybe I wouldn't do it--but I don't think about it. I started smoking because of peer pressure. I was 15 when I got hooked.

What's going to stop me? Getting sick.

The anti-smoking commercials won't stop me. When I watch them, I just kind of flick it, change channels. I laugh at them. I smoke because I enjoy it.

TAREK OSSMAN

16, junior, Birmingham High School in Van Nuys; Reseda resident

I tried smoking once, but I didn't think much of it. I won't smoke because you're just messing up your lungs by doing it.

It's hard to stop people from smoking once they start. Even when people know the consequences, they still can't quit. They get hooked. There's a lot of information out there, so more won't make a difference.

But maybe you can stop kids before they start. If they cut down on some of the ads, like the ones with the girls, that might help with the little kids. The ads with Joe Camel works on the little kids, gets them to smoke. But older kids aren't that stupid to believe in an ad.

You could stop kids from smoking if you make cigarettes more expensive or you could give fines. Teenagers don't smoke at home; they do it on the streets. If you got a ticket when you smoked on the street and your parents had to pay a fine, go to the police station and pay for it, then your parents would know that you smoked. If they are good parents, they'll probably ground their kids or something.

JENNIFER VARGAS

13, freshman, Culver City High School

For kids to stop smoking, you need to get more facts out to them. When you show kids the consequences of stuff, it affects them. You should show them about lung cancer and dying. Those commercials that scare people are pretty effective, like the lady who smokes and then she has a hole in her throat.

Most teenagers look up to musicians. If you got the musicians to stop smoking in their videos, that could help too.

If they ban cigarettes, that might stop some people, but others will still try to get it, like drugs. Drugs are illegal, but people still get them.

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