I wanted to thank Mr Giles Watson of Uffington, Oxfordshire when I read his letter in The Independent at the breakfast table this morning for shining a light on the fact that children of 16 can join the British army; and can be shown glamourous adverts that encourage them to enlist. When I read the article on May 29th to which his letter refers I too was incredibly angry that it’s possible for children so young to be recruited in this way. Here’s Mr Watson’s letter:

“It is rightly illegal in this country to sell cigarettes to children under 18, and tobacco advertising is not permitted in any of our media. So why can children walk into a cinema and see advertisements that glamourise the activities of the armed forces, and how can the Army be permitted to recruit 16-year-olds and even send under-18s to battle zones (“One in six recruits to Army is aged 16″, 29 May)? Why do some organisations that deal in death have their recruitment activities strictly regulated, while others are subject to no such control and are even permitted to recruit potential victims in our schools?”

It’s time to stop and think about what’s acceptable in advertising terms because preparing teenagers to die horrible deaths via a quick stint in the Army is morally abhorrent. However, the reason for the banning of tobacco advertising for under 18s is probably based on the cost to the State of providing medical care for people with lung cancer; it’s a lot cheaper if you just die at 19 (the age of the youngest British soldier to die in Afghanistan so far) than it is if you have to be cared for on the NHS for a few years first.

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