Smoking Hot: The ill-effects of underage advertising

A young kid is playing with his sister. The brother mimics the barking of a dog and she puts a straw in her mouth, puffing out invisible smoke. No harm done here. They’re just playing around, enacting scenes of the great Walt Disney motion picture “101 Dalmatians”. Cruella is the villain of the story, with a dark and gloomy appearance. Her car, her furry coat, as well as her trademark slender and fashionable cigarette holder, form part of the depiction of the villain in the story.

The aim of Disney might have been to represent Cruella, and her unconditional love for cigarettes as evil. However, her iconic stature means the opposite effect might have taken place in the minds of the young audience; the fashion, the grown-up look and the suave only manages to entice the fascination of the child viewer.

Similarly, a young teenager is bombarded with thousands of advertisements every day. A teenager getting a haircut reads a gossip magazine. Paparazzi snaps of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan smoking and boozing on a night out are published.

This may not have a direct result upon the behaviour of a teen short-term, albeit it might be the case in the long run.

It is estimated that daily, an average person working in the city is exposed to more than 6000 advertisements a day. TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, internet, and posters are among the various media outlets that expose us to what is known in the marketing field, as selective exposure. Whether we decide to accord importance to preferred ads/images/movies/television shows, our subconscious records the various images and videos we are exposed daily.

Does this have an effect on our behaviour toward smoking?

Some scientists believe that media conglomerates still deliver adverts with no regard or little concern for youthful audiences.

10 year olds smoking on the streets in Ukraine

Adult product advertising is all too often aimed at an underage audience. Utilizing numerous methods such as cartoon and animal spokes people, sports sponsorship, childish packaging, catchy jingles, and movie product placement, industries such as tobacco and alcohol have targeted our children and teenagers with their product placement. Exposing youth to idols using these products at this very impressionable age can have many different effects on their future habits and mind-set. It can forever change the path of their lives by altering the way they view these addictive products.

What about the plethora of ads posted on packets of cigarettes depicting health issues and shocking images of hearts and lungs affected by heavy smoking? They should be a real deal breaker. Instead it seems to attract the attentions of teenagers. It’s seen as a joke. 89% of the smokers today started out when they were teens, a mistake they might pay with their lives.

Death by cigarettes

There was a time when smoking emerged as a movement with the ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’. In time it turned out to be a so-called ‘stress burner’. No pun intended here.

According to a recent report conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), over 60,000 Australians aged 15-17 are regular cigarette consumers. Nowadays it is a mere pretence to form part of a social group that accommodates smoking and boozing as a trendy fashion. I remember vividly my induction as a 16-year-old. My father and I were seated on the veranda. He poured me a drink of whiskey accompanied by a cigarette. He told me, “Try it, and tell me if you like it. If you do, feel free to smoke and drink moderately of course. Don’t be a fool lying to yourself. The worst thing to do would be to smoke and drink even if you know you hate it.” I puffed out and managed a bittersweet grimace. He probably knew that I would hate it with my guts. But he had a good point and I never fail to forget this anecdote.

Essentially the problem lies in the social context. Going out with friends to a club or just the corner of the street to have a drink with your friends in the nearest pub, is a tradition installed many centuries ago. If you’re out in clubbing or just chilling out with friends at a pub, you’re expected to drink and encouraged to smoke by the packed, reserved outdoor smoking areas. Why else would you go out? To not take part is to socially cut yourself down.

In a few rare cases a person goes out clubbing because he/she loves dancing without the need to have a drink or a smoke. Is it possible to go out and stay clean of cigarettes or alcohol? Certainly is. But who adheres to that sort of behaviour? Not many. Exceptions aside, in my opinion and personal experience people with little interest in boozing or smoking often pass on the offer of going out to nightclubs and pubs.

Cigarettes Health Warning: No use

Most of us remember this toddler below. He was at the front of major tabloids and newspapers across the globe. A two year old Sumatran, Ardi Rizal, who smokes more than 15 cigarettes a day. An outrage, a lot would say. Some bloggers however went to YouTube to post disturbing comments on the video that went viral. “Totally cooler than all of you”, said “Gawker02”. That is still the mindset today? A cigarette is still seen as the instant cool factor? How is this possible if cigarettes are so allegedly removed from all entertainment and idolatry?

Smoking toddler in Indonesia

The truth is, smoking, along with sex, drugs and alcohol are still “advertised” in many forms with no real age restrictions. And although there are boundaries set up for buying cigarettes or obtaining alcohol at a liqueur store, teenagers still easily usurp these. It may be that the more obviously hidden cigarettes become and the more “difficult” it becomes to take up the habit, the more the fascination and the merit of smoking becomes. Cigarettes are such a rebellious act today, they are cooler than ever before to possess. In effect, the transparent banning and shunning is doing the work of ten advertisements.

Moreover, the unrestrained, free internet is a perfect example of a medium which communicates free “advertisements” to teenagers.

Whether it’d be on social networks, on popular teen websites or on YouTube, in movies, via celebrities and interviews are all part of the plethora of mediums that communicate under age advertising to the population. Underage “advertising” is present, and many of us fail to recognise it as advertising.

Should smoking be illegal? It’s an ongoing debate. But right now we should be asking ourselves whether suitable measures have been put into place to discourage and prevent teenagers from smoking that aren’t restricted to the obvious, traditional printed ad.



  • Dewees, Curt. “Marketing Cigarettes to Children.” Health 20-20. 19 Mar. 2005
  • Dittmann, Melissa. “Protecting children from Advertising.” Monitor on psychology June 2004. 19 Apr 2005 .
  • Worsnop, Richard L. “Teens and Tobacco.” The CQ Researcher Online (1995). 24 April 2005 . Document

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Health, Medicine, People

Author:Stephane Thomasse

Journalism & Communication major at Monash University. 21 years old. Ink Editor of the Monash Magazine in Berwick

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57 Comments on “Smoking Hot: The ill-effects of underage advertising”

  1. April 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    “If you’re out in a clubbing or just chilling out with friends at a pub, you’re expected to drink or smoke.” A total enclosed public place smoking ban was introduced in Victoria on 1 July 2007. Reducing smoking patrons less opportunity to smoke in a public venues as the venue must have a licence and a suitable open space that separates smokers from non-smokers. Therefore, it’s safe to say smoking is not promoted to minors as they can only smoke in limited venues.The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 expressly prohibited almost all forms of Tobacco advertising in Australia, including the sponsorship of sporting or other cultural events by cigarette brands. The 2006 Australian Formula One Grand Prix was the last international even to feature tobacco advertising of any sort. As a result, the tobacco industry, the industry is forced to focus on non-traditional means of promotion such as in-store displays, innovative packaging. Thus, it’s safe to than “an average person working in the city is exposed to more than 6000 advertisements a day” will see a lot of smoking advertisements unless they intentionally seek them out.

    • Anonymous
      April 22, 2012 at 11:46 am #

      I agree with Hannah the author needs to do is research and find sources more timely and relevant to today.

    • Annie
      June 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

      Pubs, clubs and casinos became smoke free on the 31st of October 2007, making all of Australia’s enclosed workplaces and public places smoke-free. Some jurisdictions have even legislated for smoke-free outdoor dining and outdoor areas.

      Bans on cigarette advertising on radio and television have been in place since 1976.
      Bans on cigarette advertising in all Australian newspapers and magazines have been in place since 1990.

  2. Matt Butler
    April 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    “I remember vividly my induction as a 16-year-old. My father and I were seated on the veranda. He poured me a drink of whiskey accompanied by a cigarette. He told me, Try it, and tell me if you like it. If you do, feel free to smoke and drink moderately of course.”

    Sounds like your father has some explaining to do since he not only did he light up a cigarette for you but he said you could smoke if you liked it.

    • Mat
      June 20, 2012 at 2:18 am #

      haha! Your dad took a big risk

  3. May 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    I read a lot of words, a lot of stats, but what is this article actually supposed to tell me?
    From the watery intro presented, the vague direction I understand your article to be going was… perhaps a piece about a startling Disney/Philip Morris expose in their use of Banduraesque social cognitive conditioning on children to brainwash them into smoking!?
    No… evidently not… If you do find such a link, let me know, would actually be an interesting read.
    “89% of the smokers today started out when they were teens. A mistake which might they’ll pay with their lives” – Ok, so smoking is bad, advertising is bad… thanks for the heads up. Also may want to watch that grammar there, wouldn’t want that creeping into any print article now would we?
    Also I am not very sure where the heart warming personal account fits in… smoking and drinking is socially acceptable now? If daddy dearest presents it with three fingers of whiskey? Wait, is smoking still going to kill us, or make us cooler? Or, will it make us reconnect with family members? Is advertising NOT to blame, but society or our own kin!? Puzzling stuff!
    Now the social context of things… who actively goes out to drink ‘or’ smoke? Unless your talking about going out to a fancy cafe in the city to drink whiskey and smoke cigars, but that isn’t really mentioned here now is it. Smoking whilst out on the ‘town’ has changed in its context, through legislation banning smoking in enclosed areas. No longer do we have the ‘Mad Men’ bars of hazy smoke and cocktails, its now just stale beer and perhaps vomit. Smoking is a ‘behaviour on the side’, an addiction that is done out of habit… and unless its a fine cigar from Cuba, people do not go out on the town just to smoke. And regardless, nightspots are over 18 affairs, and hence not relevant to your own article.
    Oh goody, the conclusion, perhaps I was gravely mistaken and missed something vital here…
    “Should smoking be illegal for minors? It’s another debate.”
    Umm… still illegal, and still will be for the foreseeable future, and I really do not see anyone out there to play devils advocate… or will I be seeing a new article titled “Whinney Blues for Me and You, why your kids should have a durry too!” … please don’t, please?
    And the final line…
    “But we can ask ourselves whether suitable regulations have put into place to stop or prevent teenagers from smoking. “
    … Yes. I asked myself that, just then, and I said ‘yes’. Plain packaging, zero advertising (even online advertising is extremely hard to come by from Australian servers, yeap the government looked into that one as well, wow!), they don’t even let sports teams be sponsored by them anymore! Here is something that is really WORTH a debate, and an article might I add. Banning smoking… altogether. DUN DUN DUNNNN…
    Hope this constructive feedback helps 🙂

    • Anonymous
      June 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      Love your constructive feedback 😀

    • sara
      June 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      I read a lot of words, a lot of stats, but what is this article actually supposed to tell me?

      Exactly what is it supposed to tell us?

  4. Anonymous
    May 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    If this is the kind of ‘investigative’ rag the world will be exposed to someday I fear for societies’ definition of ‘good journalism’ then.

  5. May 30, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    @ above how is this article investigative journalism? lol @ intentious you should really edit the submitted pieces if this article is anything to go by. @ Stephane how is it possible that you’re a student paper editor? All the above comments clearly suggest you have a lot to work on so, how is it possible you can edit other students work with such flaws? Did no one else apply for the job? I find your article to be poorly researched, written and executed. I do hope you next submission is a lot better and that you really take everyone’s constructive criticism on board to advance your skills if you wish to work in the journalism industry.

    • Annie
      June 19, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      An opinion piece is an article, published in a newspaper or magazine, that mainly reflects the author’s opinion about the subject. In Australia, opinion pieces are more important than they probably should be.

      A Few Tips for Opinion Piece Writers

  6. Anonymous
    May 30, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    I’d like to see how Stephane responds to the above comments! I thought the point of leaving comments was to have two-way communication yet, Stephane has yet to reply does he no longer write for intentious?

  7. Anonymous
    May 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    I would also like to see how Stephane responds to criticism…

  8. Lee
    June 7, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    He hasn’t published another article since or written back to his criticism…@Craig I very much enjoyed your analyses of this article 😀

  9. June 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm #


    • Anonymous
      June 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm #


  10. Anonymous
    June 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    @ Intentious “Our team does strive to report accurately, on the most current information wherever possible, covering a balanced range of topics.” Might want to reword “current information” based on the opinion above.

  11. June 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm #


    • Anonymous
      June 18, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

      Again (facepalm)

  12. June 9, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Thank you for your feedback. This was my first article but certainly not my best even though i think the some of the comments are a bit harsh. Obviously my article had flaws and I’ll do my best to improve upon that.

    • Mat
      June 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Some scientists believe that media conglomerates still deliver adverts with no regard or little concern for youthful audiences.

      Can I have a link to this claim?

    • sara
      June 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

      I find your overall opinion to be confusing from this:

      “In effect, the transparent banning and shunning is doing the work of ten advertisements.”

      To this:

      “But right now we should be asking ourselves whether suitable measures have been put into place to discourage and prevent teenagers from smoking that aren’t restricted to the obvious, traditional printed ad.”

  13. Anonymous
    June 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    @Stephane considering most of your feedback is negative which comments did you consider to harsh?

    June 10, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    I like your attitude Stephane! It takes time and dedicate to perfect a craft 😀

  15. June 11, 2012 at 12:29 am #


    June 13, 2012 at 3:30 am #

    @Stephane do you know what a tobacco advertisements EVEN looks like? As everyone has pointed out it’s almost impossible to see one in Australia. Please enlighten us ALL by showing us at least one tobacco advertisement promoting smoking as ‘cool’ to minors in Australia.

  17. Chris
    June 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    “This was my first article but certainly not my best even though I think the some of the comments are a bit harsh.” I think you need to focus on researching the topic for the most relevant and timely information. I agree with theguyintheredhat leave out personal antidotes and the rhetorical questions they are not persuading us. I would also suggest you vary your sentence length, try and use short simple sentences with simple language as much as possible.

  18. Michael
    June 14, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    I fail to see how this got published with so many obvious errors?

  19. Amanda
    June 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Smoking toddler in Indonesia has no relevance to teenagers in Australia. Not true “smoking along with sex, drugs and alcohol are advertised in many forms with no real age restrictions.” Do you research!!!

  20. Bell
    June 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    Sales of tobacco to children under the age of 18 are illegal in all Australian states and territories. It is also illegal for a person over 18 to give a child under 16 cigarettes or tobacco products.

  21. Matt
    June 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Stephane are you suggesting a tobacco company financially backed Walt Disney’s ‘101 Dalmatians’ in exchange for product placement?

    • June 18, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      I didn’t read that he was suggesting it was financed, I read that he was suggesting it was a poorly-thought choice by the character designers knowing it was intended for viewing by children. I strongly agree that smoking in TV shows, movies and even printed material should be age-restricted just like drug scenes are.

      • Hannah
        June 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

        Cruella is held in a similar regard among cinematic villains, once being voted the 39th greatest movie villain of all time. Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as “a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime.” In saying that, I think it’s say to say Disney is saying smoking is evil!

  22. Sam
    June 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    Andrew if that’s the case what should 101 Dalmatians be rated?

  23. June 19, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    Interesting that our plain packaging laws were complemented by the UNCRC as preventing children from taking up smoking, but are currently being challenged by cig producing countries in the WTO as a theft of IP.

  24. sara
    June 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Hi Andrew, how many submissions would I have to submit to become a regular writer for Intentious? I’ve just noticed Stephane has only submitted once (above).

  25. John
    June 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I see a lot of nicorette advertisements I can’t say i’ve ever seen a smoking commercial. I’m pretty sure point of sale advertising is almost outlawed however, I do see a lot of quit smoking advertisements like this link

  26. Lady Jayne
    June 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Overall, I think it’s safe to say stephane thinks smoking is bad and that most people take up smoking in their teens. However, he failed to provide a sufficient evidence to produce a strong opinion. I feel for the students that submit to Stephane as he reigns as editor of a student publication. I hope he has the ability to take constructive criticism on board and learn through reading other students work.

  27. Liz
    July 1, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Does Intentious have writers meetings or do the writers just submit whatever, whenever?

    • July 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      No we definitely don’t have writer’s meetings. It’s a fairly free playing field (within some guidelines). Writers are invited to create their own reader base and hence reputation via their own independent pieces. Topics are largely the writer’s personal opinion, not the collective opinion of Intentious. However, it’s also important for me to point out that sometimes, written pieces by our writers are not their opinion at all, and are actually published to deliberately prompt readers into masses of comment wars. Why, you may ask? The site actually is not so much about the piece, but the comments that follow it. Many of us share the position that people grow more open minded through seeing every extreme/facet of an argument. Intentious believes in setting up a medium for collective debate on contentious news — few places let it get so heated. 😉

      As for quality of pieces — we have editors, but we try not to intrude too much on a piece and merely look for grammatical / spelling errors and check it ticks the “contentious” and “relevant” box before being published. We also prep new writers for criticism — people tend to cop that a lot on here, and that can be a healthy thing.

      • Charlie
        August 6, 2012 at 12:21 am #

        It appears Stephane no longer contributes to Intentious! Did you fire him Andrew Beato?

        • Hayden
          August 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

          Firing him was the right decision

  28. thethreadwar
    July 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    No offence mate, but when has your work ever been great? You’ve written for publication before, and ‘run’ one, surely you should be perfecting your craft quite sufficiently by now. As ‘constructive critism’ from an editorial and industry-experienced individual, may I suggest write what you know, and feel confident to write in – if it’s investigative you have a way to go, and I would strongly suggest not succumbing to working, or aspiring to only work in the field of Journalism. It’s competitive enough and this kind of work ethic just will not cut it. I wish you the best of luck.

  29. Zoe
    September 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

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