With holiday shopping in full swing, parents and adults need to be aware of subtle messages some gifts provide to the youth in their lives that can affect their overall health and wellbeing. One of those messages is tobacco use in video games. Yes, that’s right; tobacco use both smoking and chewing is featured in many popular video games. Some video games that feature tobacco include: Call of Duty, Fallout: New Vegas, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and Assassin’s Creed.
Most of us don’t even think that tobacco use could be part of today’s video gaming world. One video game – Assassin’s Creed allows players to buy and sell tobacco for profit as part of the game. Other video games allow players to pick and choose the tobacco product their game player will use. Video games are rated and descriptions for the rating most often fail to list tobacco use.
Why is this a problem for today’s youth? Exposure to tobacco use in video games is likely to promote youth smoking or chewing. Playing video games where the characters smoke, chew and even make money from the sale of tobacco gives youth the subtle message that tobacco use is “ok” and as a result, youth are more likely to try tobacco products. Youth also associate using tobacco as a way to make them tougher, stronger, more popular and having better skills/abilities like the characters in video games.
Tobacco companies desperately need replacement customers to use their products because fifty people die every hour in the United States due to tobacco use. Today’s youth are the tobacco company’s target. The use of tobacco products in video games is free advertising for tobacco companies. And, as a 1984 tobacco company report famously said, younger adults are the only source of replacement customers.
Can youth play these video games? Should you give the video game you purchased for a youth in your life? Yes, youth can play these video games and yes, you should give the gift you purchased. What we must do as friends, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents is to help our youth understand that the use of tobacco products in video games is another way tobacco companies are targeting them as replacement customers.
We need talk to the youth in our lives and explain that most youth and teens do not smoke, chew or use other tobacco products!
The reality is, 1 in 9 youth use tobacco products and that number is decreasing. Tell youth that tobacco companies have found a loop hole in the rules about not marketing tobacco products to them by placing the dangerous tobacco products in video games. Let them know that the use of tobacco products in video games is a way to play mind games with youth to get them to think that tobacco use is cool or will help them be stronger and more like the characters in the video game.
By talking about the dangers of tobacco use and companies deceptive advertising, you are helping youth so they can stand strong and say no to tobacco.
Our youth’s health and future depends on your important conversation this holiday season. Give the video gift and the gift of learning about tobacco tricks.