Local News

RTI to Design Presidential Smoking Survey

Posted June 22, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A new push to combat teen smoking will be spearheaded by a Triangle company. President Clinton has announced a nationwide survey to track which brands teens are smoking.

The president says the results will make it clear which companies are targeting our kids. Then, they can be held accountable.

The Research Triangle Institute in the RTP will design that survey. But will it really stop teens from picking up the habit?

The survey is the first of several steps President Clinton is planning to keep the pressure on cigarette makers. The president accuses big tobacco of targeting young smokers and turning them into lifetime customers.

A group of Triangle teenagers have been smoking for years. They picked up the habit long before they turned 18, the age when you're allowed to buy cigarettes. Some started as young as 12.

"It's when the stress comes," said smoker Nik Flythe, "'cause I'm working two jobs now so that's a lot of work, and a lot of stress. You take a cigarette break whenever you can."

The Clinton Administration hopes to hold cigarette makers accountable for teen smoking by identifying which brands kids buy. The local kids say they don't pay attention to advertising. Instead, they started smoking whatever brand their friends or relatives buy.

"At first, I started smoking Camel Lights, then I moved on to Newports because all my friends smoked Newports," explained Joni Oliver, "and I'd run out and wouldn't be able to get any, so I developed a taste for Newports."

Some of the kids admit peer pressure encouraged them to pick up the habit. Getting cigarettes isn't a problem, even though many are too young to buy them.

"I know one girl who would tell her mom to go get cigarettes, and she would get them like she was getting her own," Flythe admitted.

The teens in this group are well aware of the health risks associated with smoking, but say they aren't worried about it. They are worried about how much cigarettes cost. Some say a price increase is the only thing that would convince them to kick the habit.

"If he keeps raising the prices," Flythe said, "straight cold turkey, give it up."

The Research Triangle Institute plans to release the results of its survey in August.