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Save Our Breath! This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   In the community of South Boston, there are a growing number of teenagers who smoke. The main cause of this dilemma is the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors. Any teenager who wants to purchase tobacco products can stroll into most stores and purchase whatever they want.

I work for a non-smoking group called "Save Our Breath Tobacco Education Peer Leaders." We try to help children resist the temptations of cigarettes (and other tobacco products). One of our archrivals is the notorious Joe Camel, the cartoon character who represents Camel cigarettes. Camel denies the accusation that they target children, which I find hard to believe. They use a cartoon character who looks cool and has fun. Adults do not look up to cartoon characters, but children do.

The evidence showing that cigarette companies target children made our group curious. We decided to take a survey. All the members of our group are between 14 to 16, so we tried to buy tobacco products in 19 South Boston stores. Of the 19, 17 stores sold to us. These numbers are much too high in any community.

After we examined the results, we decided not to report these stores to the proper authorities immediately. Instead, we sent two letters, one to the seventeen stores that sold us tobacco, and one to the two that did not. The letters to the "guilty" parties stated what we had done, and promised to report them if we caught them selling tobacco to minors again. The letters to the "honest" stores thanked them for obeying the law. We also gave them a certificate and offered one hour of volunteer work in their store by one of our workers. The stores accepted and we were pleased to fulfill it. The "guilty" stores have begun to obey the law.

Cigarette companies and the stores that sell tobacco to minors do not realize the effect they have on the children. Tobacco is considered a "gateway" drug. Prevention efforts need to begin with tobacco. Every day in Massachusetts alone, 29 people will die of tobacco-related illnesses, and 125 young people will smoke their first cigarette. fl


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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