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The Usual Friday Crud

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Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Making a difference

Texting overcomes drawbacks
By Louise WilliamsMarch 20, 2006 - 1:22PM
TEEN smoking has finally found a powerful opponent and it's not the graphic photos of mouth cancer among the new health warnings on Australian cigarette packs.
It's the mobile phone. It seems phones have it all: "maturity, individuality, sociability, peer-group bonding, rebellion and adult aspiration". In the teen rebellion stakes, smoking is starting to look like "old technology", according to the British anti-smoking group Action on Smoking.
Five years ago the group came up with an interesting hypothesis, an idea so intriguing that it was picked up and published by the prestigious British Medical Journal.
The group had noticed a correlation between a sharp rise in mobile phone ownership among teenagers in the mid-1990s - common to most industrial economies - and the first real decline in teen smoking, a downwards trend curiously pre-dating a major government anti-smoking campaign.
"Many aspects of mobile phone use provide teenagers with the same functions offered by smoking while offering an alternative for spending money," the group argued. "The mobile phone is an effective competitor to cigarettes in the market for products that offer teenagers adult-style."
Both cigarettes and mobile phones offer teenagers openings for conversations. Phones also offer adolescents "something to do with their hands, give them confidence, relieve boredom and fulfil social and fun needs in much the same way smoking does".
And phones, like smoking, can be used as a defence mechanism.
"When you are sitting by yourself, say on the bus ... just get your phone out and play a game or something," said one teenage girl.
But teenagers don't have endless supplies of money. So when it comes to a choice of where to put their cash, phones seem to be winning out.
"Mobile-phone use may act as an entry to a peer group and may be essential for membership of a peer group that arranges its social life on the move. The need to own a mobile phone will provide vigorous competition for the spare cash once spent on cigarettes, while meeting many of the same [image] needs."
In Japan last year health officials agreed. Teen smoking rates have plummeted, but mobile phone ownership among young people is close to 100 per cent. There was a high chance phone bills were being weighed up against the money they spent on cigarettes, said Kenji Hayashi, the head of research at the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry.
[Thanks Con - who works for a Mobile company...]

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