Tobacco Billboards Permanently Banned

Provision in Attorneys General Agreement Requires

Apr. 21 1999

Washington, DC - Friday, April 23 will mark an important day in the lives of children across the country -- the day on which every tobacco industry billboard advertisement in the United States must be taken down. The billboards, which will be removed and are permanently banned as part of last fall’s agreement between the state Attorneys General and the tobacco industry, can no longer be used by the tobacco companies to advertise products that hook kids into tobacco addiction. In addition, any tobacco billboards currently under contract to the tobacco industry must be turned over to the states this Friday, so these billboard spots may be used for anti-tobacco advertising aimed at reducing youth tobacco use from now through the end of 1999. “This is a significant step in the effort to limit the ability of the tobacco companies to market their products to kids,” said Bill Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS (CAMPAIGN). “Tobacco billboards promote images that are proven to be effective with children and contribute to their misperception that smoking and tobacco use is a normal, acceptable part of everyday life. But the ban on tobacco billboards will have a major impact on tobacco use only if the states also devote a substantial portion of their tobacco settlement money to programs to prevent tobacco use.” “While we are pleased that these billboards are coming down, the elimination of billboards does not eliminate the ability of the tobacco companies to market to kids,” said Matthew Myers, executive vice president and general counsel of the CAMPAIGN. “According to the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend only six percent of their overall marketing dollars on billboards, and Big Tobacco’s ability to market its products in stores and other areas where these efforts are visible to young people remains undiminished. To truly have an impact on youth tobacco use, additional marketing restrictions and adequate state funding for counter-advertising campaigns are essential.” The change in billboard advertising comes as Congress is considering whether the federal share of tobacco-related Medicaid funds will be turned over to the states without any requirement that some of the monies be earmarked for tobacco prevention. Meanwhile, state legislators across the country are considering whether to spend a portion of their state settlement funds on tobacco prevention programs. “There is strong evidence that state tobacco prevention programs in the states do work,” said Danny McGoldrick, research director for the CAMPAIGN. “In order to keep this momentum going in the states that already have existing programs and to make progress elsewhere, it is essential that the states dedicate a portion of the settlement money to youth tobacco prevention programs. The billboard ban and use of these billboards temporarily for public health messages are important steps, but only a truly comprehensive approach will ultimately protect kids and save lives.” Arnold Communications, a national advertising firm, has developed the anti-smoking messages that will replace the tobacco ads on 3,700 billboards nationally. One set of tobacco-prevention messages, “Statistics,” offers startling facts about tobacco use. A “Statistics” billboard reads: “3,000 kids start smoking every day.” Another message, “Firsts,” shows visuals of young children with the copy, “First Bicycle, 6 years. First Turtle, 7 years. First Cigarette, 11 years.” All ads end with the tagline, “It’s Time We Made Smoking History.” All of the new tobacco prevention ads may be seen on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) web site at www.cdc.gov/tobacco. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office will hold an event in Boston tomorrow to unveil the new anti-smoking ads and commemorate this historic step forward. At the event, Mac McLaren, the brother of the former Marlboro Man, Wayne McLaren, who died of smoking-caused lung cancer, will speak. Other speakers will include Dr. Howard Koh, commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly; and Danny McGoldrick, research director of the CAMPAIGN. The event will be held in a parking lot opposite from 130 Essex Street (at the Surface Road) on Thursday, April 22 at 10:30 a.m. “Advertising Age recently selected the Marlboro Man as the number one advertising icon of the century,” said Novelli. “It is no surprise that the most preferred brand among kids is also Marlboro. Billboards featuring the Marlboro Man have been a fixture around the country for decades, and they have been a successful tool for Philip Morris in luring kids into trying cigarettes.” The billboard ban, which officially takes effect at midnight on April 22, was one provision of last fall’s settlement between the state Attorneys General and the tobacco industry. In addition, the November settlement stipulates that tobacco companies are required to pay more than $200 billion to the states over 25 years. Tobacco control advocates are currently working to ensure that a significant portion of these funds goes toward tobacco prevention efforts in the states. The Washington, DC-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest non-government initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids. For a state-by-state list of contacts available for comment on the billboard ban, please contact the CAMPAIGN at 202-296-5469.

 

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