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Cities’ Dual Rise of Old and Young Populations Influences Anti-Smoking Campaigns

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Public health officials are trying to figure out how to target their anti-smoking ads to young and old people alike, as some cities experience a rise in the number of children and senior citizens, The Atlantic reports.

Thomas Farley, New York City’s Health Commissioner, says when it comes to tobacco control, he is focused on children. “I try to carve up the population as little as I can, but there are definitely environments which we think are important to try and prevent certain health problems in kids,” he told the magazine.

Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, agrees it is important to focus on young people. “Virtually all adult smokers start as children,” he says. “There’s a direct correlation between young people concerned about the health effects of smoking and those people who… engage in a variety of behaviors that otherwise impact their health. Tackling tobacco impacts perceptions about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”

Cities such as Las Vegas, which attracts both young people and retirees, are “in kind of a double whammy,” says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. They have to focus on issues for both populations simultaneously. In addition, cities with large immigrant populations, such as Houston and Dallas, must take Hispanic children into account when formulating programs and allocating resources, he added.

A government anti-tobacco ad campaign featuring graphic images helped 100,000 people quit smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced recently. One ad showed a woman who lost her voice box to throat cancer. Another ad shows a teen wearing an oxygen mask in the hospital after he suffers an asthma attack caused by secondhand smoke. A third features an Army veteran with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who says he is running out of time. In a fourth ad, a man who suffered a heart attack displays his surgery scar.

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