The key is prevention

Dear Editor,

More than 50 percent of tobacco retailers are within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school in New York state, which means most kids can't avoid passing tobacco marketing as they walk to and from school.

Tobacco companies today spend more than 90 percent of their total marketing budget - nearly $10 billion a year - to advertise and their products in convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets. They pay stores billions to ensure cigarettes and other tobacco products are advertised heavily, displayed prominently and priced cheaply to appeal to kids and current tobacco users.

This marketing is very effective at reaching kids, because two-thirds of teenagers visit a convenience store at least once a week. Studies have shown that exposure to tobacco marketing in stores and price discounts increase youth smoking.

Despite what our kids are learning about the dangers of tobacco use in school, all the tobacco marketing they see teaches them that smoking is normal, accessible and cool.

More than 3.6 million middle school and high school students smoke cigarettes; one of three teen smokers will ultimately die from a tobacco-related disease. That is not a future parents want for their children.

The key is prevention, because nearly 90 percent of smokers start smoking before they are 18 and almost no one starts after age 25.

Our kids deserve to walk to and from school without being subjected to messages from the tobacco industry. To learn how to get involved, visit or

Carrie G. Benton