Did Big Tobacco Lie to Teens?

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Person reading newspaper article

Image by NIDA. 

Have you ever found out that somebody didn’t tell you the whole truth about a situation? It probably didn’t feel so good. Well, now imagine if that lack of information could damage your health—or worse.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine it. The major tobacco companies (sometimes called “Big Tobacco”) hid some important information from the public that resulted in millions of deaths and untold suffering from heart disease and cancer.

Misleading the public

In 1999, the U.S. Government sued several tobacco companies for misleading the public about the risks of smoking. For many years, Big Tobacco knew that smoking was dangerous to a person’s health—and they still told the public that smoking was safe.

That’s not all. In the same lawsuit, the Government claimed that Big Tobacco advertised cigarettes to people younger than 21 to get a new generation addicted to smoking. The Government argued that the tobacco companies wanted to be sure that, as their current customers got older and died, new customers would replace them—and the tobacco companies would keep making money.

Paying their dues

The judge in the case ordered the tobacco companies to produce an ad campaign that tells the truth about smoking—that it’s addictive and can lead to health problems and death. Late in 2017, Big Tobacco started running the ads on prime-time TV and in newspapers.

That’s good, but teens might not see those ads because most teens now get their news and entertainment online (YouTube, Netflix, social media, etc.). Still, public health surveys are showing that fewer teens are smoking, so it seems they’re getting the message about the dangers of smoking.

If Big Tobacco withheld the truth about smoking, what does that tell you about how dangerous smoking really is? Learn the facts instead.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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