Helping Youth Decide

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

"Helping Youth Decide" (HYD) was an early tobacco industry "youth smoking prevention" program devised to be used as a legislative tool to help the industry avoid regulation. The Tobacco Institute rolled HYD out around 1985. The industry rolled out a second program around that time called "Responsible Living."

Industry-designed "kids don't smoke" programs were implemented give the industry an aura of self-regulation to help curry favor with and give political cover to legislators who serve and protect the industry from regulation.

Tobacco industry documents about "Helping Youth Decide"

In the transcript of a talk given by a member of the Tobacco Institute, an Institute representative brags about how about how the Institute's "Helping Youth Decide" was used to help the industry avoid regulation:

Our representatives in New Hampshire and Maryland...used program to help head off sampling and transportation ad bans in those states respectively ... In Wisconsin, TI's Responsible Living Program was used a couple of weeks ago ... to avoid attachment of a sampling ban to a measure establishing an 18-year minimum cigarette sales age...In California ... TI's Ann Browder testified about how "Helping Youth Decide" [helped] our people defeat half-cent cigarette tax increase earmarked for anti-smoking "education" in the schools...[1]

In 1985, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) was the Tobacco Institute’s co-sponsor for its “Responsible Living/Helping Youth Decide,” (or HYD) youth smoking prevention program. To check the effectiveness of the program, NASBE suggested that the Institute do a limited test of HYD in two states before rolling it out nationally.

The Institute's response to NASBE's idea of a two-state rollout made clear the actual reason for HYD:

This program's [Responsible Living/ Helping Youth Decide] objective is to influence certain members of Congress. A limited test will not help us achieve that objective...[2]

NASBE eventually felt the effects of being used as a public relations tool for the industry and withdrew its sponsorship of the industry's youth program.

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