Feb. 12 2009
Washington, D.C. — Several scientific studies released today provide powerful new evidence that tobacco marketing causes kids to smoke, while anti-tobacco advertising campaigns prevent smoking. These studies send a loud and clear message to the nation's policy makers: We need less tobacco marketing and more tobacco prevention.
It is critical that Congress this year pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products and marketing, which among other things would crack down on tobacco marketing that appeals to kids. It is also imperative that Congress and the states increase funding for programs proven to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
CDC Study: Youth Smokers Overwhelmingly Prefer Three Most Heavily Advertised Brands
A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands — Philip Morris' Marlboro, Lorillard's Newport and R.J. Reynolds' Camel — continue to be the preferred brands of youth smokers. These brands were preferred by 78.2 percent of middle school smokers and 86.5 percent of high school smokers. Marlboro is preferred by more high school smokers, 52.3 percent, than all other brands combined.
This study indicates that, despite limited restrictions placed on tobacco marketing by the 1998 state tobacco settlement, tobacco marketing continues to have a large and disproportionate impact on the nation's youth. While tobacco companies claim they do not market to kids, they're sure doing a good job of getting kids to use their products. This study was published in the February 13, 2009, issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (www.cdc.gov/mmwr).
Congress can protect our nation's children by granting the FDA authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. This bill would impose specific restrictions on tobacco marketing that appeals to children. It would limit tobacco advertising in stores and in magazines with significant teen readership to black-and-white text only, eliminating the colorful images that depict smoking as cool and glamorous. It would ban outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds, end tobacco sponsorships of sports and entertainment events, and require stores to place tobacco products behind the counter. The bill would also grant the FDA and the states authority to further limit tobacco marketing.
In addition to these marketing restrictions, the legislation would require larger and more effective health warnings, ban misleading terms such as "light" and "low-tar," strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products, require disclosure of the contents of and changes to tobacco products, and empower the FDA to mandate changes in tobacco products, such as the reduction or removal of harmful ingredients.
Three Studies Finds truth® Prevention Campaign Reduces Smoking and Saves Money
In addition to the new CDC studies, three new research papers find that truth®, the national youth smoking prevention campaign conducted by the American Legacy Foundation, has been both highly effective and cost-effective in preventing America's youth from starting to smoke. One study found that truth® was directly responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years, while a second study found that the campaign not only paid for itself in its first two years, but also saved between $1.9 billion and $5.4 billion in health care costs. These two studies were published online today by the American Journal of Prevention Medicine (www.ajpm-online.net). A third study in the February issue of Ethnicity and Health found that youth exposed to the truth® campaign were more likely to have anti-tobacco beliefs and attitudes.
These studies show that tobacco prevention campaigns are a vital element of the overall effort to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences. Unfortunately, both nationally and in the states, these programs are badly underfunded and fall woefully short of the $13.4 billion a year the tobacco companies spend to market their deadly and addictive products. This year, the states will collect $24.6 billion in revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend less than three percent of it on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. No state currently meets the CDC's recommendation for funding such programs and many states are considering cuts to their programs.
It is critical that both the federal government and the states increase funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. As underscored by the new studies, the evidence is abundantly clear that these programs not only reduce smoking and save lives, they save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to skimp on funding for these programs.
Today's new studies follow a landmark August 2008 report by the National Cancer Institute that reached the federal government's strongest conclusions to date that 1) tobacco advertising and promotion cause kids to smoke and 2) mass media campaigns are effective at reducing smoking, especially when combined with other tobacco control strategies.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation nearly $100 billion in health care bills year. The Institute of Medicine, the President's Cancer Plan and other public health authorities have recommended a clear plan for winning the fight against tobacco use. It includes FDA regulation of tobacco products, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and other proven measures such as higher tobacco taxes and smoke-free workplace laws. It is critical that Congress and other elected leaders take urgent action to protect our children and the nation's health.