Students learn how big tobacco targets young women
March 21, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated March 20, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.
At Mitchell Guidance Center Wednesday afternoon, teenage girls flipped through magazines and chatted about the latest trends and Kardashian gossip.
Little did they know, among the fashion and celebrity news, lurked advertisements that would seek to make them lifelong captives of cigarettes.
"You guys as young girls are targets for big tobacco," Lisa Griffin, an intervention specialist at Mid-Coast Family Services, told the group of about 10 girls.
It was Kick Butts Day at the school, and Griffin, along with the mentor group Mitchell's Angels, hosted the Girl Talk project that aimed to expose how big tobacco seeks to entice young women.
The presentation showed photos of Camel No. 9 cigarettes, for example, which are trimmed in shiny pink, come in "stiletto," or 100 length, and evoke a Chanel No. 19 feel.
Griffin also showed students an advertisement for the cigarettes: a full-page ad layered with vintage fashion items like a dress, jewelry and high heels.
"Sometimes we're not all that aware of how people are marketing to us. We see this stuff and think, 'Oh my gosh, that's so cute,'" Griffin said. "But it's just targeting us so we'll give them more money."
The girls got a chance to see another ploy aimed at attracting them to cigarettes, this time from Virginia Slims. The company recently unveiled a "purse pack," which contains super-slim cigarettes bundled by a lipstick-esque carton.
Ashley Valdez, 16, wasn't fooled.
"They're trying to advertise to teenagers to buy their products just because of the way that they look," she said.
Ashley and her friend, Danielle Graf, 16, said they know people who smoke and wouldn't think of picking up the habit anyway.
"They're not cute," Danielle said.
But the girls were more empowered after the presentation, which encouraged students to report back on area convenience stores and the ways they advertise tobacco to kids.
The girls also signed several direct-mail subscription cards found in women's magazines. On them was the plea, "Please keep tobacco advertisements out of your magazine."
In the end, each girl got a prize equivalent to the cost of cigarettes. A bottle of good mascara could go for the cost of a pack. A week's worth of cigarettes was replaced by four curling irons. And for the price of a carton, four girls received fashionable watches.
"You got a curling iron instead of cancer," Griffin quipped.