Tobacco Smoke Alarm Sounded on Sports Illustrated for Linking Tobacco and Athleticism … and Swimsuits

Mar. 24 1998

Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today sounded the Tobacco Smoke Alarm on Sports Illustrated magazine for allowing significant tobacco advertising on its pages, particularly those of its annual swimsuit issue, and called on the magazine to refuse tobacco ads in all future issues. In a letter to the magazine, the CAMPAIGN pointed out that more than 10 percent of all full-page ads (or equivalent) in the recent swimsuit issue were for tobacco products. Other recent editions had a similarly high percentage of tobacco ads, alarming figures given the publication’s nearly 24 percent youth readership rate. "With its level of readership by young people, Sports Illustrated has a responsibility to be accountable for the advertising in its magazine," said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN president. "The fact that a magazine with a focus on physical ability and athletic excellence would accept ads from an industry whose products cause addiction and deadly health problems is astounding. To make matters worse, several of the tobacco ads in the swimsuit issue blur the line between editorial content and advertising by using imagery similar to that of the swimsuit pictorials. It is as if Sports Illustrated and its tobacco advertisers went out of their way to work together to integrate the editorial and tobacco advertising content." Recently released tobacco industry documents show that, despite public denials, the tobacco industry has consistently targeted kids with its advertising and marketing activities. Matthew Myers, CAMPAIGN executive vice president said, "Until a comprehensive national tobacco control policy designed to protect youth from tobacco marketing is adopted, it is imperative that publications like Sports Illustrated put the health of our children ahead of tobacco-tainted ad dollars." Sports Illustrated has a youth readership of nearly 24 percent, according to syndicated research service MRI Teenmark. In an article in the February 18 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a research study found that magazines with a large number of youth readers are significantly more likely to contain ads for cigarette brands popular among young adolescents than ads for cigarette brands popular among adults. Youth cigarette brands were identified as Marlboro, Newport, Camel, Kool and Winston. Three of these brands are advertised in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue (Marlboro, Kool and Camel); another (Winston) appears in the current issue of the magazine. A separate study described in the same edition of JAMA revealed that tobacco promotional activities, including advertising, play an even stronger role than peer pressure in getting kids to start smoking. The letter to Sports Illustrated calls on the magazine to refuse tobacco advertising in future issues, stating "Sports Illustrated -- and all magazines with high youth readership -- must understand the dramatic effect the tobacco industry advertising and marketing has on kids." The letter goes on to say, "By refusing tobacco advertising in all future issues, Sports Illustrated can take an important and dramatic step toward protecting the health of impressionable young people. The tobacco industry’s dollars should no longer threaten the health and lives of our children, all of which should be able to have a fair chance to emulate and live the active, healthy, competitive and winning lifestyle that your publication so well depicts." Comprehensive national tobacco control legislation would protect kids by limiting tobacco advertising in Sports Illustrated and other high youth readership publications to a black and white, text-only format. In addition, it would prohibit the use of human or cartoon characters in any tobacco advertising, ban all outdoor tobacco advertising, and prohibit the use of tobacco brand names, images or logos in sponsoring athletic and social events. "The pages of Sports Illustrated, particularly those of its swimsuit issue, provide yet another visual and dramatic example of the need for Congress to pass comprehensive national tobacco control legislation now," said Novelli. "At least in part because of what they see in magazines, 3,000 kids begin smoking each day. One-third of those kids will die prematurely as a result of tobacco-related disease. A comprehensive solution that prohibits tobacco marketing to kids is critical to saving the health and lives of children in America." The Tobacco Smoke Alarm is aimed at exposing the tobacco industry's efforts to sell more of its products to children directly through clever marketing -- and indirectly through its efforts to buy political influence. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS can be reached by email at: TobaccoSmokeAlarm@TobaccoFreeKids.org. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest 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.

 

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