New Study Shows Tobacco Industry Has Increased Retail Store Advertising in Wake of Billboard Ban

Campaign Calls for State Attorneys General to Investigate and Congress to Grant FDA Authority over Tobacco

Jul. 19 2000

Washington, DC — The tobacco companies have significantly increased retail store advertising and promotions since a ban on tobacco billboard advertising took effect on April 24, 1999, undermining efforts to reduce kids' exposure to messages encouraging them to smoke, according to a new study released today.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago at Illinois (UIC) found that, after the billboard ban, 80 percent of retail stores surveyed had interior tobacco advertising, 60 percent had exterior tobacco advertising, 52 percent had tobacco promotions such as price discounts and gifts with purchase, and 73 percent had branded functional objects (such as clocks, shopping baskets, or display shelving) showing tobacco advertising. All of these categories registered significant increases after the billboard ban, which was mandated by the 1998 legal settlement between the states and the tobacco companies.

"The billboard ban is just another smokescreen the tobacco companies use to say they are part of the solution, when, in fact, they continue to bombard kids with messages encouraging them to smoke," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. "Last week a jury in Florida told the country that it rejected the tobacco industry's arguments that it has changed. Today, with this study, we have further proof that their judgement was correct."

"The shift in advertising expenditures is likely to mean that any intended effect of the billboard advertising ban - as well as other advertising restrictions - will not be fully realized since overall exposure to advertising and promotion may not be reduced," said Frank Chaloupka, professor of economics at UIC and one of the study's lead researchers. "Given the high level of youth exposure to point-of-purchase marketing efforts, this could slow the goal of reducing youth smoking."

The national study is the first comprehensive survey comparing point-of-purchase (retail outlet) tobacco marketing practices before and after the April 24, 1999, ban on tobacco billboard advertising. Researchers surveyed 1,484 stores between February 16 and April 23, 1999, and 1,980 stores between April 24 and June 23, 1999. Stores included convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores and other retail outlets. Findings show:

  • 80 percent of stores had interior tobacco advertising after the billboard ban, a five percent increase.

  • 60 percent of stores had exterior tobacco advertising, a nine percent increase, and 42 percent had a high level of exterior advertising, a 21 percent increase.

  • 52 percent of stores had tobacco promotions, a 20 percent increase, including increases of 16 percent in multi-pack discounts, 124 percent in gift-with-purchase promotions, and 25 percent in cents-off promotions.

  • 73 percent of stores had branded functional objects displaying tobacco advertising, a 10 percent increase.

"Studies show that three out of four teenagers visit a convenience store at least once a week, so the tobacco companies may be targeting our kids more effectively than ever," Myers said. "In addition, the increased use of price discounts makes cigarettes and other tobacco products more affordable to kids and undermines policies aimed at reducing youth smoking by increasing the price of cigarettes."

The UIC study follows on the heels of similar studies released in May showing an increase in tobacco advertising in magazines with high youth readership. One study, conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, showed that tobacco advertising in magazines with at least 15 percent youth readership (ages 12-17) increased by 33 percent after the state tobacco settlement.

The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS called for the following actions in response to the latest study:

  • The state attorneys general should broaden their investigation, begun in response to the magazine advertising increase, into whether the tobacco companies are violating the state tobacco settlement, which prohibits the tobacco companies from taking "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth."

  • Congress should enact legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate all aspects of tobacco manufacturing and marketing.

  • Congress should reject efforts to grant special protection to the tobacco companies by cutting off funding for the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco companies. While the House of Representatives voted to fund the lawsuit, the Senate this week is voting on legislation aimed at blocking it.

"At a time when we are seeing more and more evidence that the tobacco industry continues to target kids, the last thing Congress should be doing is giving the tobacco companies special protections," said Myers. "Congress should be protecting the public health and kids by granting the FDA meaningful authority to regulate tobacco."

 

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