Letters to the editor for October 24, 2007:

Dear Editor,

As a student in Shelby County, I would like to share my opinion regarding a big problem with tobacco advertisements. I am a member of the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) with the Shelby County Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Communities.

I participated in &8220;Operation Storefront&8221; activities, which is a community tool used to check how stores market tobacco products. This activity was definitely an eye opener.

The marketing strategies ranged from neon colored hanging signs in windows to huge signs in the windows and on the outside lawns of the stores.

I also found it quite alarming that some stores even sold candy cigarettes and cigars. From a youth perspective, who would not be enticed or curious?

The survey activity taught me signs to be mindful of when entering and leaving a store.

The clever methods of advertising are attempts to get the attention of young people and encourage the experimentation with their products.

Now, every time I enter into a store or business that sells tobacco products, I cannot help but take a glance at the signs and trinkets all around me. My hope is that youth are strong and smart enough not to be taken in by the hidden agenda of the advertisement. Statistics indicate 90 percent of smokers begin before the age of 18 and that smoking is responsible for more deaths than car accidents, homicide, and other drug use each year.

Also, youth in the United States smoke almost a billion packs of cigarettes per year. About 174,000 youth will die before they reach adulthood if something doesn’t change.

These statistics tell me that marketing strategies work!

The big tobacco companies are gaining revenue, but have we considered what we are losing?

No matter how you look at it, tobacco is a killer. It kills those who smoke and also those who are forced to breathe the polluted air that the cigarette produces.

I am just a teenager, but I have already figured out that this is a health issue for our communities. Isn&8217;t it about time that our elected officials take a stand on tobacco related ordinances?

Tanner Cain

Chelsea High School studen