Aug. 15 2001
Washington, DC — Since signing the state tobacco settlement in November 1998, the tobacco companies have sought to convince the public and policy makers that they are now reformed and responsible. A study being published in the August 16, 2001, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine provides powerful new evidence that the tobacco companies have not changed and are violating the promise they made in the settlement to stop marketing their deadly products to children.
August 15 2001
New study shows tobacco industry still marketing to kids:
Abstract: The Master Settlement Agreement with the Tobacco Industry and Cigarette Advertising in Magazines
As part of the settlement, the tobacco companies promised not to "take any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth." The new study, which examined tobacco advertising in youth-oriented magazines, found that, rather than ending or reducing their advertising in such magazines after the settlement, the tobacco companies continued to advertise at the same or greater levels in 1999 and 2000 for the three brands most popular with youth, Marlboro, Camel and Newport. In addition, the settlement has not reduced youth exposure to advertisements for these brands, with ads for each brand reaching more than 80 percent of youth in the United States an average of 17 times each in 2000.
This study adds to the growing body of evidence that the tobacco companies have systematically violated both the spirit and the intent of the settlement's prohibition on targeting children. Rather than curtailing their marketing and strictly complying with the provisions of the settlement, the tobacco companies have increased their marketing expenditures to record levels, shifted money to forms of advertising and promotion most effective at reaching kids and exploited every loophole in the settlement to continue business as usual. Magazine advertising is but a small part of the industry's overall marketing, and previous studies have shown that other forms of advertising and promotions effective at influencing kids have skyrocketed as well.
It is clear that the tobacco industry's marketing to our children will not be stopped unless Congress grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority over tobacco products, including the authority to prohibit marketing that appeals to children. This study demonstrates why Congress must reject the loophole-ridden FDA legislation supported by Philip Morris and introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and U.S. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN). As they have done with the tobacco settlement, the tobacco companies would exploit loopholes in these bills to continue marketing to kids and engaging in other harmful practices. Congress should pass effective legislation, such as H.R. 1097 introduced by U.S. Reps. Ganske (R-IA), Dingell (D-MI) and Waxman (D-CA) and S. 247 introduced by U.S. Sens. Harkin (D-IA), Chafee (R-RI) and Graham (D-FL).
The new study also underscores the need for states to protect kids by using their tobacco settlement proceeds to fund and implement effective, comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. Unfortunately, only five states are funding such programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention despite the growing evidence that these programs are working to reduce smoking, save money and save lives in the few states that have implemented them. The National Conference of State Legislatures last week reported that states have allocated less than five percent of their settlement funds for tobacco prevention, far short of the approximately 25 percent recommended by the CDC.
This study is but the latest evidence that the tobacco companies continue to market their products in ways effective at reaching kids. The Federal Trade Commission earlier this year reported that in 1999, the first year after the settlement, the marketing expenditures of the tobacco companies actually increased by 22 percent to a record $8.24 billion. Much of this increase was in ways effective at reaching kids, such as high-visibility store shelf displays, discounts on cigarette brands favored by children and free gifts such as hats and lighters. Other studies have documented increases in tobacco advertising inside and outside retail stores and in youth-oriented magazines in 1999.
It is also important to note that the tobacco companies have changed their harmful marketing practices only when they think they have no other choice because of public exposure or the threat of legal sanction. Philip Morris, for example, announced in June 2000 that it would stop advertising in youth-oriented magazines only after media coverage exposed the tobacco industry's continued advertising in such publications and state attorneys general threatened legal action.
The tobacco companies will not truly change and stop targeting our kids unless forced to by law. The need for federal and state lawmakers to act to protect our kids and reduce the toll of tobacco is as great as ever.