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Newly-Released Data Refute Tobacco Industry Claims About Children Attending Car Races

September 13, 1996

Washington, DC - Children’s attendance at motor sports events is five times greater than what the Tobacco Institute reported to the FDA, according to a newly-released survey which was the source for the tobacco industry’s claims. When filing its comments last January opposing an FDA proposal that would prohibit Marlboro, Winston and other tobacco brand names from sponsoring automobile races, the Tobacco Institute cited market research showing children comprising only three percent of auto racing audiences. The actual data, released today for the first time, show that 15.5 percent of those attending car racing events are age 12 to 17. The survey, prepared by Simmons Market Research Bureau, Inc., was made available by the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids. 'Kids idolize race car drivers. The actual survey results blow a hole in another tobacco industry myth,' said Matthew L. Myers, executive vice president and general counsel for the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids. 'We don’t want children having the same admiration for Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.' Despite tobacco industry claims that automobile races 'appeal (s) virtually exclusively to adults,' the survey found that children between the ages of 12-17 are nearly twice as likely to attend a stock car race as the average American.

The 1994 survey also showed that:

  • 18.3 percent of those attending stock car races (including NASCAR) were between the ages of 12 -17;
  • 13.7 percent of those who watched stock car races on TV were between the ages of 12 - 17; and 13 percent of those who watched all auto races on TV were between the ages of 12- 17;
  • 32.9 percent of those who listened to stock car races on the radio were between the ages of 12-17; and 27.6 percent of those who listened to all auto races on the radio were between the ages of 12 - 17.

While the survey did not measure children under age 12, it is assumed that a sizable portion of this age group attends auto racing. On August 10, 1995, President Clinton announced the FDA proposal aimed at reducing by half in seven years the number of underage smokers. The final rule is expected to be issued soon. 'These data show what the other major sponsors of auto racing realize, that kids are a big part of this sport,' says Myers, who noted that recent sponsors of auto racing are children-oriented companies like McDonalds, Kelloggs, and The Cartoon Network. Simmons’ data are based upon a syndicated survey of a national probability sample with a confidence factor of plus or minus five percent. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is the nation’s largest initiative ever launched to decrease youth tobacco use. The Campaign’s mandate is to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids. It is a membership organization for more than 100 health, medical, civic, corporate, children’s and religious organizations working to reduce tobacco use among youth.