I visited the 8th grade on Monday, and I began the class with a story about a recent off duty incident I was involved in regarding a felony hit and run (and the importance of not turning a bad situation into a worse situation). After telling the story, we covered similar ground to my last lesson with the 7th Grade: advertising of activities and drugs like vaping, smoking, alcohol, tobacco and THC.
Fifty years ago, there weren’t a lot of rules regarding how drugs were marketed or presented in the media, and the tobacco companies took full advantage of that with advertisements like these:
As the research about the dangers of tobacco became more refined, it became clear that the tobacco companies were advertising in an unethical and dangerous manner, especially in regards to children. As a result, strict laws were passed to restrict how and when tobacco could be advertised. Now the ads look more like this:
Regardless of the content of the ad (a picture of cigarettes or some nonsense with people playing tug o war), there are large warning labels on all of these tobacco products. However, relying on the law to maintain guidelines on issues like this is problematic because these types of laws are often reactionary (only coming after the problem is established). Alcohol is also extremely dangerous if abused (especially for kids), but the restrictions on alcohol advertising are miniscule compared to tobacco (just turn on a random sporting event to see the difference). For example, compare the warning on this ad for an alcoholic soda (certainly something that would qualify as an entry level booze for a teenager) to a warning on a chewing tobacco ad:
Alcohol and tobacco have been legal (with a small exception in the 1920’s) for all of US history, and we are still trying to figure out the proper regulations. What about the new stuff? Vaping and e-cigarettes were invented in the last decade, and after a century of prohibition, marijuana is slowly becoming legalized across America. We are still figuring out how to deal with these new options for recreational drug use for adults, but in the meantime the messages being sent to kids are confusing and dangerous. I emphasized to the students that any ad they see for a vape device or some sort of marijuana/THC product is just that: an advertisement trying to sell them something.
There aren’t any real restrictions on advertising marijuana and vaping products yet, and at this point the long term effects (especially for children) are still being studied. What we do know is that teen use of marijuana and other THC products is harmful to children, and the same can be said for nicotine (from smoking or vaping). With all that in mind, I reminded the kids that they should look at any advertisement with the idea of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).