Statement: Tobacco Companies Targeting Youth in Magazines

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

May. 17 2000

Washington, DC — Eighteen months ago, the major tobacco companies entered into a legal agreement with 46 states in which the tobacco companies promised not "to target youth". Since that time, Brown and Williamson has publicly vowed that it does not and will not market in magazines with more than 15 percent youth readers. Philip Morris has gone further. Philip Morris has mounted a massive, multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in which they claim they don't want kids to smoke, they don't advertise to kids, and they even want to reduce youth tobacco use.

The tobacco companies have spent the last year claiming that they have changed. They have claimed that it is a new era and that the American public should believe that they have turned over a new leaf. This morning The Wall Street Journal exposed the truth: despite the tobacco industry's promises and commitments, they are still targeting and they are still addicting our children.

And what was the tobacco industry's response? More word games designed to hide the truth about what they are doing, exploit every conceivable loophole, and deceive the American public yet another time. When confronted with the findings by The Wall Street Journal, instead of responding in a straightforward candid manner, the tobacco industry creates a whole new definition of what the word "reader" means. Suddenly the word "reader" no longer means "reader", it only means "subscriber". As Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire accurately noted, "The tobacco industry" knows full well that Sports Illustrated is subscribed to by an adult but read by the kids." It is time for the tobacco industry to end the word games and tell the straight truth. When Philip Morris launched its massive public relations campaign, it said, "All we ask is that you give us a chance, and judge us by our actions…" Today we are doing just that.

Today the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids along with our partners the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association are hosting this press conference to provide a forum for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the American Legacy Foundation to release two new independent studies that confirm and go beyond the findings of The Wall Street Journal. These studies and The Wall Street Journal investigation show that since the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement the tobacco industry has once again said one thing and done just the opposite. Instead of curtailing their advertising and marketing to children, the industry has actually increased its expenditures in magazines read by the largest number of children and done so with devastating effectiveness.

The first study focused on "Cigarette Advertising Expenditures Before and After the Master Settlement Agreement" and was conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Dr. Greg Connolly, the Director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, will present its results. The second study examined "Tobacco Brand Magazine Advertising to Teens" and was conducted by researchers for the American Legacy Foundation. Dr. Cheryl Healton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation, will present its results.

The evidence uncovered by the Journal and these two new studies demonstrate that when today's tobacco executives ask the public to believe that they are no longer targeting our children, they deserve the same trust as their predecessors when they swore under oath before Congress that their products are not addictive.

The numbers don't tell the entire story. These ads use images that are seared into the minds of our young people and are placed for maximum youth exposure. "Camel's" sensual "Pleasure to Burn" campaign prominently placed in magazines like Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, and Hot Rod. "Kool's" teen come on ad carefully placed in an issue of Rolling Stone featuring teen heart throb Sarah Michelle Gellar who portrays Buffy the Vampire Slayer on its cover, as well as in magazines like Glamour, Motor Trend, and Spin. "Marlboro" placed in the issue of Sports Illustrated featuring the Women's World Cup Soccer team as its Sportswomen of the Year, as well as in virtually every major magazine read by America's children. And Philip Morris' new "Find Your Voice" campaign for Virginia Slims in Mademoiselle, Glamour, Essence, Vogue, and Elle. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The only problem we had was in picking from the many egregious examples.

The tobacco industry's response to the broad prohibition against targeting young people in the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement makes clear that the tobacco industry's marketing to our children will not be stopped without the type of detailed rules included in the FDA's 1996 Tobacco Rule. These ads in these magazines would not have been permitted had the FDA's 1996 Rule gone into effect or had Congress passed the legislation introduced by Senator McCain in 1998. As the direct result of the tobacco industry's actions and Congress' failure to act, the tobacco industry has been free to continue to market to our children. How many more children have to become addicted before Congress acts?

Unfortunately, today's disclosure comes only one day after Senator Bill Frist introduced a new, watered-down version of his 1998 bill. The new Frist bill does not put in place FDA's vitally important marketing restrictions. It is so weak and so filled with loopholes and restrictions, that if it is adopted it will be years - if ever - before FDA can implement rules that would stop the kind of advertising to our kids that we see here today. And, the tobacco industry's response to the Master Settlement Agreement – promising to eliminate marketing to children when they are using the Master Settlement Agreement as a cover for increasing their youth advertising expenditures - makes clear that it will exploit every loophole in the new Frist bill in order to continue business as usual.

It is also ironic that today's disclosures come just as the Senate of the United States is poised to gut the federal government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry. If the leadership of the Senate gets its way, the Senate will include an amendment buried in the Department of Agriculture Appropriations bill that will prevent the Justice Department from gaining the monies it needs to fund the case. Yet, another special protection for the tobacco industry.

First Congress failed to protect America's children by not passing legislation giving FDA the authority to stop tobacco marketing to children, and now the same Congress is poised to vote to immunize the tobacco industry from suit on behalf of taxpayers for the money that the federal government has spent treating tobacco-caused disease.

Today, we issue three calls to action.

  1. The Wall Street Journal reports that the State Attorneys General are investigating the tobacco industry's advertising surge in magazines with large youth readership. We call on the State Attorneys General to begin their enforcement action immediately against the tobacco companies to bring a halt to the massive advertising targeting our children. Eighteen months have passed since the execution of the Master Settlement Agreement. The industry's violation of the spirit and the intent of the agreement are systematic, massive and go beyond any individual campaign. The tobacco industry will only change if it is forced to change, and the time for the State Attorneys General to act decisively is now. The test of the Master Settlement Agreement lies before us. If it can be used to bring a halt to these advertisements, it can be a major force for change. If not, it's prohibition against marketing to youth has no meaning.

  2. We call on Congress to put aside partisan politics and pass strong FDA legislation consistent with the legislation introduced by Congressmen Ganske and Waxman, Senators Harkin-Chafee-Graham or the legislation Senator Frist introduced in 1998 and reintroduced yesterday by Senator Kennedy, but not the weak alternative Senator Frist introduced yesterday.

  3. Congress should resist the partisan effort to cut off funding for the Federal Government's lawsuit against the major tobacco companies. The tobacco industry does not deserve this type of special protection. As today's disclosures reveal, the lawsuit is necessary to bring a halt to the tobacco industry's ongoing wrongful behavior.

To those who have studied the tobacco industry's behavior over the last 35 years, today's disclosures are not surprising. In the 1960's the tobacco industry swore that it did not market to kids and adopted a voluntary code that it claimed would prevent marketing to kids. Since that time they have repeatedly promised voluntarily not to market to kids. Today's disclosure proves that the tobacco industry will only stop marketing to our children when they are forced to do so.

 

Media Contacts