Sep. 17 2002
Washington, DC — The Boston Globe reports that Philip Morris has pulled its "Think. Don't Smoke" television ads, but plans to continue a so-called "prevention" campaign aimed at parents. Philip Morris' termination of the "Think. Don't Smoke" ads is a positive step, especially in light of an American Legacy Foundation study released in May showing that the ads are ineffective and may even make adolescents more open to smoking in the future. However, there is much more that Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies should do if they want to be taken seriously when they say they do not want kids to smoke. They should stop their seductive marketing that appeals to kids; stop all of their so-called prevention programs, none of which have been shown to be effective; and stop trying to thwart effective prevention programs around the country. Simply put, Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies should stay away from our kids.
The evidence is clear that, while Philip Morris and the other tobacco companies try to portray themselves as part of the solution to youth tobacco use, they remain the main cause of the problem. In the two years after promising in the 1998 state tobacco settlement to stop targeting kids, the tobacco companies increased their marketing expenditures by 42 percent to a record $9.6 billion in 2000 – that's $26 million a day. Much of this increase was directed toward convenience stores frequented by kids, making tobacco products more visible, more affordable and more appealing to young customers. It's no wonder that the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse released earlier this month found that 87 percent of youth smokers prefer the three most heavily marketed cigarette brands – Philip Morris' Marlboro, Lorillard's Newport and R.J. Reynolds' Camel. Philip Morris' marketing is especially effective at reaching kids, with Marlboro's share of the youth market increasing for the second year in a row to 55.2 percent.
The tobacco companies also continue to fight successful tobacco prevention programs across the country. Just last week, Lorillard ratcheted up its efforts to silence the American Legacy Foundation's successful "truth" advertising campaign by suing state attorneys general because they have not acted against Legacy. Lorillard has also sued Legacy directly. Legacy's ads tell kids the truth about how the tobacco industry has targeted them and deceived them about the harm caused by tobacco products. In contrast, Lorillard's "Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen" ads set the standard for ineffectiveness. They offer no reason not to smoke and portray smoking as an adult activity, thereby making it even more tempting to kids.
Similarly, Philip Morris has asked the state of Florida, which has one of the nation's most successful tobacco prevention programs, to stop running some of its ads. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds are complaining that California's long-running, aggressive and effective tobacco prevention ads have biased jurors against tobacco companies. If the tobacco companies were serious about tobacco prevention, they would measure California's program by its success in reducing smoking among both kids and adults, saving thousands of lives by reducing lung cancer and heart disease, and saving hundreds of millions in smoking-caused health costs. Instead, the tobacco companies measure success by the impact on their bottom line.