Cigarettes: What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You

By ACSH Staff — Nov 01, 2003
Information Tobacco Companies Don't Want Teens to Know About the Dangers of Smoking Prepared by the American Council on Science and Health Foreword by Justin Guarini

Information Tobacco Companies Don't Want Teens to Know About the Dangers of Smoking

Prepared by the American Council on Science and Health

Foreword by Justin Guarini

Editor-in-Chief: Kathleen Meister, M.A.

Editors: Kimberly C. Bowman, Gilbert L. Ross, M.D. Karen L. Schneider, Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.


Justin Guarini

Cigarettes: What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You Information Tobacco Companies Don't Want Teens To Know About The Dangers of Smoking should be like a "Driver's Ed" manual for those considering whether to take up smoking. Tobacco executives, despite hypocritical statements such as "We aren't marketing to teens anymore" and "We're not advertising in magazines for young people," are truly fearful that the word will get out in the teen community about all the damage smoking can do. They fear this because this is where their customers, the next generation of smokers, must come from. If teens refused to be tricked into trying cigarettes, the big bucks that have always flowed right into the pockets of Big Tobacco would soon dry up.

Someone has to stand up and tell teens about this the movies and newspapers sure don't. What about the warning label on each pack? Doesn't that help? Actually, no. Who reads it anyway? Does it say anything about the 4,000 toxic chemicals in tobacco? Or the nearly 500,000 Americans (among millions around the world) who die each and every year from smoking people such as George Harrison and Bobby Bonds? No, they don't breathe a word of it and you can find similar labels on many harmless consumer products, so these labels become meaningless as a warning.

Don't let them fool you. Tell the cigarette execs that you are going to be smarter than your older friends, even smarter than your parents, and not take the risk of early disease and death by smoking.


Gilbert L. Ross, M.D.

When the ACSH collection of smoking's health effects both the well-known ones and the largely unknown was first assembled only seven years ago, it was a remarkable achievement, groundbreaking, unique. The second adult edition, published a few months ago, is also a groundbreaking work.

But this book, aimed at and written for teenagers, is even more important. While it covers all the health dangers of cigarettes thoroughly, as does the adult version, the young people who read it will have the opportunity to learn from it before they are under the thumb of tobacco, before they are fully addicted to this truly deadly habit.

The first adult "Warning Label" book came out in 1996, and it catalogued literally hundreds of health effects suffered by smokers, their co-workers, families, and even their unborn children. Many of these effects, probably most, were unknown to a large majority of the public including, tragically, the smoking public.

Some will no doubt be surprised to learn that the list of known damaging effects from smoking continues to grow with each passing year. The new, revised adult edition of Cigarettes: What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You has found conclusive evidence in the scientific literature linking cigarette smoking to many more diseases and conditions, far more than just the ones that everyone knows about like lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, and heart disease.

So why have a teenage version? The large majority of smokers take up the habit as teenagers. The reasons for this are complex, but many teens are not yet able to make mature judgements on health-related issues, despite the fact that choices made as youngsters may last a lifetime. By the time maturity and judgement regarding lifestyle choices has taken hold, many have experimented with smoking and many are already addicted. This simple fact explains why the cigarette industry and its defenders cannot simply attribute smoking to an "adult choice."

Our new chapter on addiction is of crucial importance. Smokers of any age know better than experts just how addictive smoking is; they can see how hard it is to quit. Smokers, even those committed to quitting, often attempt to quit five, six, or more times before finally quitting for the long haul. The concept of addiction is of utmost importance when discussing approaches to dealing with the public health issues surrounding cigarettes: those who advocate leaving smokers alone to make their own "choice" ignore the fact that addicted smokers i.e., almost all smokers have little role in the "decision" they make every few minutes to light up yet again.

For this reason alone, all teens smokers, those who love them, those who have to be in their company, and especially those who are contemplating starting to smoke must read this book. After doing so, they will be truly informed as to the gravity of the assault their health is (or may soon be) undergoing when they smoke.

Also see our site for teens detailing the specific health effects of smoking:

Cigarettes: What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You