Apr. 3 2002
Washington, DC — More than three years after the major tobacco companies agreed to stop marketing to kids as part of the 1998 state tobacco settlement, a new poll shows that kids are twice as likely as adults to be exposed to tobacco advertising. The poll, conducted for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in March, also finds that three-quarters of kids feel targeted by tobacco companies, kids overestimate the proportion of teens and adults who smoke, and they still find it relatively easy to buy tobacco products.
The poll was released as thousands of kids across America rally against tobacco today on the seventh annual Kick Butts Day.
The poll found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of youth aged 12 to 17 say they have seen advertising for cigarettes or spit tobacco products in the previous two weeks, compared to only 27 percent of adults who claim to have seen such ads.
Philip Morris' Marlboro is by far the brand whose advertising most often leaves a mark on kids. Among those who recall tobacco advertising, 61 percent of kids, compared to 49 percent of adults, recall advertising for Marlboro. Among all survey respondents (regardless of whether they recall any ads), 39 percent of the youth surveyed and just 13 percent of adults recall Marlboro advertising from the last two weeks. Thus, youth are three times as likely as adults to recall Marlboro advertising. It is no wonder then that Marlboro, the most heavily advertised brand, is by far the brand of choice among youth smokers. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more youth smokers (55 percent) smoke Marlboro than all other brands combined.
"This poll exposes the tobacco companies' hypocrisy and duplicity when they say they have changed their marketing and do not want kids to smoke," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Philip Morris, the tobacco company that claims to be doing the most to prevent youth smoking, is doing the worst job of all. If Philip Morris isn't aiming at children, they better fire their ad agency because this survey shows that kids are at the center of the bulls-eye for Marlboro."
"The tobacco industry's marketing to our children will not be stopped until Congress grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, including the authority to prohibit marketing that appeals to kids. State leaders also must do more to protect kids by increasing cigarette taxes and funding effective, comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. These are proven solutions that can protect kids from tobacco use and the addiction, disease and death that results," said William V. Corr, Executive Vice President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Given the high level of exposure to tobacco marketing found by the poll, it is not surprising that 71 percent of the youth surveyed feel that tobacco companies want teens to smoke and that 76 percent believe tobacco companies target teens with their advertising.
This ubiquity of tobacco marketing – over $8.2 billion annually, according to the most recent Federal Trade Commission report – also creates an environment in which teens think smoking is much more common, and thus acceptable, than it actually is. According to the new survey, youth believe that about 62 percent of high school students are current smokers when, in fact, about 28 percent are. Similarly, the youth surveyed believe that about 64 percent of adults smoke, when national surveys show an adult smoking rate of 23 percent.
Finally, youth still think it is relatively easy for minors to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products. Seventy percent of the youth surveyed said it is easy for people under age 18 to buy tobacco products. Sixty-three percent said it is easy for people under age 18 to buy tobacco products on the Internet.
As part of the November 1998 state tobacco settlement, the tobacco companies promised not to "take any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth." The tobacco companies have also spent hundreds of millions of dollars on public relations campaigns claiming they are reformed. However, several studies since the settlement, including the FTC report, found that the tobacco companies increased their marketing expenditures to record levels after the settlement and that they shifted expenditures to forms of advertising, such as magazines and convenience stores, that are most effective at reaching kids.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Ninety percent of all smokers start at or before age 18. Every day, 5,000 kids try their first cigarette. Another 2,000 kids become regular, daily smokers, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result.
The national telephone survey of 507 teens aged 12-17 was conducted through ICR's (International Communications Research) Teen Excel Study from March 6-10, 2002. The full sample for the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The national telephone survey of 1,005 adults was also conducted through ICR's Excel on the same dates and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.