We’ve met many teenagers who support our work and understand nicotine addiction. Felipe Fernandez, a 19-year old smoker, talked with members of the NYC Coalition and feels strongly that we need to do everything we can to keep cigarettes away from kids.
Felipe and other high school students across New York City produced, A CLOUDED VIEW, a short film on teen smoking. In the film, Felipe explains why he thinks kids smoke:
“Why are we smoking? That’s a good question.
Is it because we grew up seeing our moms and dads smoke? Is it stress? Maybe our best friend offered us a Lucky Strike after second period economics. Or are we being preyed upon by the tobacco companies? Whether family, stress, or availability, what makes us pick up that first cigarette?
I remember I was eight when I saw my dad blow smoke rings. It was literally the most beautiful thing I had ever seen–or at least one of the coolest. I had seen my dad smoke cigarettes when I was a little boy. And I always thought they were bad. But I swear to God, when I saw smoke rings for the first time, I was like, wow. And even when he was blowing the smoke rings, he warned me, ‘Don’t smoke cigarettes. Don’t do it. It’s bad for you.’ And I took him seriously, because I knew they kill people. I knew even back then. And I know a lot more now…you see, my dad died from smoking cigarettes. He died of lung cancer about four years ago. And, I picked up the habit of smoking two years ago. And, to this day, I can see images of my dad smoking, and I wonder if that has anything to do with me smoking. I’m trying to quit. It’s hard.”
Felipe’s father’s smoke rings may have glamorized smoking, but Felipe didn’t get his first cigarette from his dad. So how do many kids get their first cigarette?
Underage youth often turn to friends for tobacco products. As reported by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, between 1997 and 2011, the proportion of public high school students buying their own cigarettes from stores dropped, but the percentage who obtains cigarettes from someone else increased from 40% to 52%.
If youth under the age of 18 often turn to older friends, family, or even strangers between the ages of 18 and 20 to buy cigarettes, we believe that raising the minimum sale age to 21 will reduce our kids’ access to cigarettes.
Youth are often lured into trying cigarettes by the notion that smoking is “cool”. But there’s nothing cool about nicotine addiction. Felipe has been struggling with his addiction for two years and is trying to quit. He agrees that we should do everything we can to prevent other kids from becoming addicted to nicotine.
See a excerpt of Felipe Fernandez’s film: A CLOUDED VIEW. To learn more about the Educational Video Center (EVC), their Youth Documentary Workshop, and other films in their DVD collection, check out EVC’s website.
 DiFranza J, and Coleman M (2001). Sources of tobacco for youths in communities with strong enforcement of youth access laws. Tob Ctrl 2001; 10:323-328.