Nov. 18 1996
Washington, DC - Students at Hardy Middle School in northwest Washington today got an education in tobacco company marketing tactics. The lesson the students learned was simple: Don’t be fooled by deceptive tobacco advertisements. The students performed two skits dramatizing how tobacco companies use alluring ads to get young people to light up. The students also decorated the school’s auditorium with posters warning their classmates about the dangers of smoking and the powerful influence of cigarette advertising. To drive home the fact that tobacco kills a third of the children who start smoking, one-third of the 230 students wore black T-shirts. The student activities were part of the events surrounding the Washington preview of "Smoke Alarm: The Unfiltered Truth About Cigarettes," a new HBO and Consumer Reports TV documentary. The 30-minute program uses an entertaining format to educate parents and teens about the health effects of smoking. The film also shows how tobacco companies try to manipulate young people with deceptive ads, promotions, and items like clothing, backpacks and other youth-oriented items displaying tobacco brand logos. The much heralded program airs nationwide on HBO at 7:00 PM EST on Nov. 21, the day of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. After viewing the film, students signed a pledge promising to be more aware of how tobacco companies attempt to influence young people. The event was co-sponsored by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, the nation’s largest private initiative to decrease youth tobacco use. "The assembly today proves how quickly kids get turned off to smoking once they discover how the tobacco industry lies and manipulates them," said William D. Novelli, president of the non-profit CAMPAIGN. "The student performers did a great job to help their classmates see how tobacco ads try to make kids believe that smoking is cool and glamorous, or that smoking will make you thin." -MORE- -2- The audience of almost 250 students and health professionals heard remarks from the acting Surgeon General, Dr. Audrey Manley, and General Barry McCaffrey, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "HBO’s ‘Smoke Alarm’ is a real contribution in motivating America’s youth to reject the dangers of addictive behavior," said Gen. McCaffrey. "Prevention and education messages, such as those included in this HBO special, must be repeated with adequate frequency and in appropriate venues so that they can counter pro-tobacco and pro-drug messages." Five other cities-Los Angeles; Austin, TX.; Tallahassee, FL., East Brunswick, NJ; and Lutherville, MD.-this week are hosting events featuring the documentary and student interaction with the documentary’s anti-smoking message. "Kids do not like to be made fools of," said Shelia Nevins, senior vice president of documentary and family programming at HBO, and an executive producer of the program. "Our aim is to show them how they’re being misled and negatively influenced by cigarette advertising and promotion." "This program is unique because it actually shows young kids how tobacco companies develop ad campaigns aimed specifically at them," said Joyce Newman, director of Consumer Reports Television and co-producer of "Smoke Alarm." 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. The campaign's 100-plus member organizations include the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National PTA.