Former big tobacco manager speaks out against industry

FOX21 News file photo

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A former tobacco industry insider spoke out Thursday at Centennial Hall.

She talked about how the industry intentionally markets their products to kids.

La Tanisha Wright was a former marketing manager for big tobacco.

Now, she travels around and speaks out against the industry and the way they target kids.

She said big tobacco doesn’t market just cigarettes to kids. They sell the entire product line.

Wright said big tobacco strategically places advertisements where kids can see them.

They’re advertisements for everything from smokeless tobacco to flavored cigarettes: all in ways to catch the eyes of kids who are more impressionable to start smoking.

Some high school kids at the event said they’re already seeing the impact of smoking.

“It affects my friends, it affects my family and it’s being promoted like its candy, like it’s something fun to do,” said high school sophomore Kyara Tinnin.

Wright said that’s all a part of the plan for big tobacco.

“This company blatantly violated the law with cartoon graphics on displays and packs and they actually set it up to where there were lights, flashy lights, around these displays to draw in young people,” said Wright.

She said the industry does what it does because it needs more people smoking.

“The tobacco industry loses thousands of customers a day because they quit or die, and they have to find a way to replace those smokers and unfortunately they target young people,” said Wright.

Colorado State University associate professor Nathaniel Riggs said they may target kids because of how brains develop.

“That open ups a window in life, between puberty and 25 years of age, where adolescence and emerging adults are at particular risk for initiating tobacco use,” said Riggs.

Some high school kids said they’re at the event to help launch action by other kids to stop this trend.

“You can do something to affect it and you can do something to help and stop other kids from trying it out,” said Tinnin.

Some experts said it’s vital to get to kids early and educate them about the dangers of smoking, so they don’t fall into the trap laid by big tobacco for them while they’re young.

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