Jun. 7 2002
Washington, DC — The announcement by U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC) that it will temporarily stop advertising in four youth-oriented magazines represents a disappointing attempt at damage control rather than a long-term change to protect the nation's children from the company's harmful marketing practices. If USSTC is serious about being a responsible company that does not market to children, it should – as we requested – immediately and permanently stop all advertising in all magazines with high youth readership – those with more than 15 percent youth readership or more than two million youth readers.
In the 1998 state smokeless tobacco settlement, USSTC promised not to take "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth." Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a study showing that USSTC increased its advertising in youth-oriented magazines after the settlement and nearly half of USSTC's magazine advertising in 2001 was in publications with high youth readership. The study clearly demonstrates that USSTC has broken the promise it made in the 1998 tobacco settlement not to target kids. Suspending advertising in four youth-oriented publications falls woefully short of this standard.
The timing of USSTC's announcement is more than suspect. It comes just 24 hours after a California judge fined R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company $20 million for violating the terms of the tobacco settlement and targeting kids with magazine advertising.
It is not just the amount, but also the type of advertising by USSTC that is disturbing. One series of ads for USSTC's "Rooster" brand features bold headlines such as "Cock-A-Doodle-Freakin'-Do," "Birds of A Feather Party Together" and "Where's the Chicks?"that are all clearly created to appeal to rebellious teens. These ads have appeared in youth-oriented magazines such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated.
We call on USSTC to permanently commit to end all of its advertising directed at kids in all publications. Anything less can only be considered cosmetic and should be treated as a violation of the settlement agreement that USSTC promised to abide by.