Opinion, September 2016

Generation Z: The butt stops here

EDITOR’s NOTE: The Falcon Forum is publishing this op-ed on behalf of the Truth Initiative, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to “speaking, seeking and spreading the truth about tobacco.”

Our generation—aka Generation Z—is faced with a shrinking middle class and high teen unemployment. We’re coming of age in a world entering an era of slow growth. So it makes sense that we worry about our financial futures more than the generation before us, and that we’re the first generation since the depression era (almost 80 years ago) to make our earning potential and financial independence so top of mind. Pretty stressful, right?

All this financial anxiety has made us pretty good penny pinchers. Nearly 60 percent of teens classify themselves as “savers” vs. “spenders,” and more than two-thirds of us agree that constantly buying new stuff is overrated. When it comes to our finances, we’re savvy, but there’s one thing impacting our wallets in a way that the vast majority of us don’t even realize: tobacco use. Why? Research shows that smokers earn 20 percent less than non-smokers. That translates into young adult smokers missing out on up to $10,000 a year.

Think of all the things—and amazing experiences—these smokers miss out on because they’re lighting up. Oh, and that $10K doesn’t even include the cost of cigarettes, which cost a pack-a-day smoker an average of $2,193 a year. With that amount of money, you could buy 47 concert tickets or 44 new video games or 253 movie tickets or 548 venti lattes.

With so many uncontrollable factors impacting our financial success and sense of security, it’s important for us to fully understand—and eliminate—this one burden that we CAN control. It’s time to end smoking, and this smokers’ wage gap, for good.

Enter truth. As one of the nation’s longest running and most successful youth tobacco prevention campaigns, truth has been spreading the word about the harmful effects of tobacco use, beyond the obvious health effects. Thanks to truth and their #FinishIT movement, we learned that smoking is hurting our dating with the music video “Left Swipe Dat” and also endangering our furry BFFs (remember #CATmageddon?). Now truth’s newest campaign, #SQUADLESS, brings to life exactly what young smokers miss out on when they choose to smoke. Truth is all about sharing these shocking facts and empowering our generation to be the one that can end tobacco use for good.

Today, teen cigarette use is down to a historic low of 7 percent. That’s incredible, especially considering that a whopping 23 percent of teens smoked back in 2000. But tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in this country, and almost half-a-million Americans will die from tobacco-related causes this year. One in three youth smokers will eventually die from tobacco-related diseases. Wanna know what’s worse? Big Tobacco is currently spending $9.6 billion every year—$26 million every day—to market its products and hook new smokers to replace the more than 1,300 smokers who die each day from tobacco-related death.

But the good news is, we can do it. We can be the generation that ends smoking for good. Our generation—Gen Z, Centennials, call us what you will—has some serious grit. We’re talking guts, initiative and tenacity. We’re tough, we’re resilient, we’re justice seekers. In a scary world where so much is uncertain, we can take a stand for what’s right. Together, we can overcome Big Tobacco. Together, we can build a successful, bright, tobacco-free future.

For more information about the Truth Initiative, visit www.truthinitative.org. View their video below.