Aug. 3 1998
Washington, DC - The Marlboro Man and the late Joe Camel ad campaigns had such a powerful influence on adolescents that they alone can be held directly responsible for encouraging four million kids to experiment with cigarettes over the past decade; at least 600,000 of those kids will eventually die from tobacco-related disease as a result, new research shows. These are the findings of Dr. John Pierce, the Sam M. Walton Professor for Cancer Research at the University of California/San Diego’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Dr. Pierce recently analyzed data on how preferences among children for tobacco advertising and promotional items are correlated with later smoking behavior, along with data on the number of premature deaths projected for teen smokers attributable to tobacco-related disease. Building upon his February 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which looked at the influence of all tobacco marketing on later smoking behavior, Dr. Pierce’s new work leads to some startling conclusions: ? Tobacco marketing campaigns between 1988 and 1997 are responsible for 6 million adolescents experimenting with cigarettes. Of those, 2.6 million kids took their first puffs as a result of the Joe Camel campaign; another 1.4 million tried smoking because of the Marlboro campaign. ? Tobacco marketing campaigns from the past decade will be directly responsible for 900,000 future smoking-related deaths of people who became regular smokers as kids as a result of ads and promotional items. Of these, 400,000 deaths can be attributed to the Joe Camel campaign; another 200,000 deaths can be attributed to the Marlboro campaign. “These new findings show a direct effect between tobacco marketing and smoking initiation among children,” said Bill Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. “It shows that RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris’ campaigns are working tragically well.” Dr. Pierce said the results show how susceptible even confirmed non-smoking kids can be to the lure of seductive ads and free promotional items. “The children we surveyed had never smoked, but a significant percentage still said they had favorite tobacco ads or wore items of tobacco gear. Later, what you see is that these kids are more open to experimenting with cigarettes and a large portion of them eventually become addicted.” Novelli said Congress should consider these new data as it continues its work on tobacco control legislation. “Any bill that doesn’t include restrictions on tobacco marketing to kids simply won’t be effective in bringing down teen smoking rates, or reducing the number of kids who will eventually die from tobacco use,” he said. Dr. Pierce presented his findings at the Addicted to Nicotine conference sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, on July 27-28, 1998. For further information about Dr. Pierce’s findings, or to arrange an interview with Dr. Pierce, please call Jennifer Thorp or Joel Spivak at 202/296-5469.