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New Study Shows Kids Still Being Pursued By Tobacco Companies

Vice President Gore Calls Congress to Action on Kick Butts Day; Kids Rally at More Than 1,000 Events Nationwide
April 14, 1999

Washington, DC - Despite the tobacco industry’s promise to curb marketing to kids, more and more youth are smoking the most heavily advertised brands, according to an important new study released on Kick Butts Day. Among other findings, a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that 70 percent of white 12th grade smokers prefer Marlboro, while a whopping 80 percent of black 12th grade smokers choose Newport, indicating that tobacco companies are perversely effective at targeting youth markets. The strong correlation between teens’ cigarette preferences and advertising shows that the tobacco companies, for all their claims to the contrary, continue their aggressive marketing campaigns with an enormous impact on kids. Vice President Al Gore released the study at a Kick Butts Day forum in Akron, Ohio, today and called on Congress and state legislators to take a series of actions to cut teen smoking. “Our children are targets of a massive media campaign to hook them on cigarettes,” Gore said. “This study shows why Congress should stand with our kids and stand up to the tobacco companies – let’s act now to make sure tobacco settlement funds are used to reduce youth smoking.” The HHS study that Gore released examined overall brand use and preference among teens. It found that 88 percent of 12th graders, 86 percent of 10th graders and 82 percent of 8th graders who currently smoke cigarettes use Marlboro, Newport and Camel, the three most heavily advertised brands. The study was backed up by a separate survey done by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, which also was released today. It shows that teens are two and a half times as likely as adults to have noticed tobacco advertising recently -- 75 percent of the kids surveyed said they had seen tobacco advertising in the two weeks prior to the survey, compared to only 31 percent of the adults. Furthermore, the brands that these teens remember advertisements for the most – Marlboro (69 percent), Camel (36 percent), and Newport (18 percent) – are the same ones listed in the HHS study as the ones most often smoked by teens. The study shows that Philip Morris, which claims to be sincere about its new youth “anti-smoking” campaign, commands 60 percent of the youth market across 8th, 10th and 12th graders with its Marlboro brand. In comparison, only about 25 percent of adult smokers use Marlboro. “In light of these new findings, Philip Morris’ claim that it does not target kids appears even more unbelievable,” said Bill Novelli, president of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. “It’s time Congress takes action to protect young people from tobacco addiction.” Despite these troubling data, kids around the country are working to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem. Today, thousands of young people stepped up to the front lines of the tobacco wars in the fourth annual Kick Butts Day, with more than 1,000 events taking place nationwide. Across Minnesota, thousands of kids have brought to school photographs of loved ones who died or are sick from tobacco-related illnesses to create memorial walls today; the pictures will be combined into a giant wall in the State Capitol rotunda in early May. In Kansas City, high school students have conducted an undercover sting operation of more than 150 local convenience stores; they will announce the number of stores willing to sell tobacco to minors at a press conference today. In Ohio, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and a Major League Soccer team will help kids kick tobacco out of school. In Michigan, the Junior Leagues across the state have joined forces in a variety of anti-tobacco events, including rallies and petitions to local restaurants to ban smoking. U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala attended the national kickoff for Kick Butts Day in Washington, D.C., where a leading youth advocate presented them with the results of the CAMPAIGN’s new survey on teens and tobacco advertising. In a positive development on the tobacco marketing front, Sports Illustrated for Women announced in its Spring 1999 issue that it will stop accepting cigarette ads after readers complained that athletics and tobacco don’t mix. The CAMPAIGN commends the magazine for putting its readers above its bottom line and urges other publications to follow its example. Kick Butts Day 1999, a day that helps kids become leaders and advocates in the battle against tobacco, is co-sponsored by the CAMPAIGN and New York City Public Advocate Mark Green. Now in its fourth year, Kick Butts Day will include young people from cities and towns in all 50 states carrying out more than 1,000 events designed to educate their peers about tobacco addiction and harm and to reduce kids’ access to tobacco products. Among other activities, students in participating schools, community, civic, religious and other groups will conduct surveys of tobacco advertising near their homes and schools, lobby local businesses to go smoke-free and hold mock trials for the Marlboro Man. In New York City, kids surveyed hotels’ smoking policies and will present an award on Kick Butts Day to the lodging establishment with the best record. In Louisiana, kids will take to the streets, parading through Natchitoches and holding a funeral for Mr. Butts, complete with a hearse and coffin. In Denver, kids have been collecting tobacco advertising in the magazines they read and will cover a soccer goal with their collage, graphically illustrating the prevalence of tobacco marketing. On Kick Butts Day, they will gather on the steps of the State Capitol to kick the ads down with soccer balls. In Japan, children will Stick It to ‘Em by slapping Kick Butts Day stickers all over the tobacco ads in magazines as they wait to see their pediatricians. In Villas Del Norte, Puerto Rico, kids are holding a celebration in a local park, where the mayor will proclaim it Kick Butts Day. “Kids are particularly effective advocates against youth tobacco use when they speak with one voice -- as they do on Kick Butts Day,” said Novelli. “Their peers -- and adults -- listen to them when they talk about how kids are being targeted as replacement smokers for the 400,000 smokers who die every year from tobacco-related disease and for others who manage to quit.” Since Kick Butts Day 1998, all 50 states have settled their lawsuits with the tobacco industry for $240 billion and state lawmakers are now deciding how to spend that money. While public health advocates want a significant portion of the money earmarked for health care and tobacco control, many states are considering spending the money on anything from highway repairs to reducing the car tax, as well as other general revenue needs. Every day, 6,000 kids smoke cigarettes for the first time, and more than 3,000 become regular smokers. One-third of these regular smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related disease. Kick Butts Day 1999 is co-sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians; American Cancer Society; American Heart Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Association of School Administrators; American Federation of Teachers; American Medical Association; American Public Health Association; American School Counselor Association; Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America; Channel One Network; Children’s Defense Fund; Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.; Girls, Inc.; Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco; National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions; Nationals Association of School Nurses; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Education Association; National Federation of State High School Associations; National Middle School Association; Oral Health America; YMCA of the USA; YWCA of the U.S.A. and Youth Service America. The Washington, DC-based CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children and making tobacco less accessible to kids.