Aug. 31 2000
Washington, DC — The 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse released today is consistent with other recent data showing that the steady increase in youth smoking during the 1990s has been stopped and rates, in fact, may be declining slightly. While this is a welcome trend, youth smoking rates remain unacceptably high, and any progress will be incremental and uneven unless more states fund and implement comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and Congress grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration full authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing, and sale of tobacco products.
The most alarming data released today show the continuing impact of tobacco advertising on kids, even in the wake of the state settlement agreement that prohibits the tobacco companies from targeting children. The survey shows that three of the most heavily advertised cigarette brands, Marlboro, Camel, and Newport, account for the vast majority of adolescent cigarette smoking, with 54.5 percent of current smokers age 12-17 reporting Philip Morris' Marlboro as their usual brand. The success of targeted marketing campaigns aimed at kids is demonstrated by two findings: the disproportionate popularity of these three brands with younger smokers compared to older smokers and the disparities in brand preference by race, with 73.9 percent of African-American adolescent smokers preferring Newport while 58.4 percent of white and 59.7 percent of Hispanic youth smokers preferred Marlboro.
These results are powerful evidence that the tobacco companies continue to target kids with devastating effectiveness. Despite its claims to have changed, Philip Morris clearly has not changed by one critical yardstick: it is still first by far in addicting kids.
Today's survey data confirm that we need meaningful restrictions in how tobacco companies market their products before we will see dramatic reductions in youth tobacco use.