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Brown & Williamson Advertises In Magazines With High Youth Readership In Violation Of Its Own Publicly Stated Advertising Policy

CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS Challenges B & W, Other Tobacco Companies to Get Serious About Reducing Youth Smoking
January 11, 2000

Washington, DC - The Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation has been advertising heavily in magazines with high youth readership despite its publicly stated claims that it does not market to youth and does not advertise in magazines with more than 15 percent youth readership.

The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today challenged Brown & Williamson to live up to its own standard and stop advertising in magazines with high youth readership. The CAMPAIGN and other public health organizations also called on Brown & Williamson and the other cigarette companies to show they have truly changed, as they claim in multimillion dollar image campaigns, and support concrete steps to reduce youth smoking, including regulation of tobacco products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In an Internet chat on December 8, 1999, Corky Newton, Brown & Williamson’s Vice President of Corporate and Youth Responsibility, stated the following policy on advertising and kids: “We really don’t believe that advertising causes kids to smoke.” She went on to say, “We control the magazines in which we advertise according to the percentage of youth readership. And do not place ads in magazines with more than 15 percent youth readers.”

However, in the past month, Brown & Williamson has placed ads featuring and appealing to young people in several magazines with youth readership (12 to 17 years old) greater than 15 percent, including Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vibe and Sport. 1998 data from Simmons Market Research Bureau shows youth readership levels of 22.5 percent for Sports Illustrated, 28 percent for Rolling Stone, 32 percent for Spin, 42 percent for Vibe, and 33 percent for sport.

“The fact is, Brown & Williamson has not changed, and despite its vehement claims to the contrary, it does market to kids,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS. “These ads seek to make cigarette smoking glamorous and sexy in a way that is clearly intended to appeal to teenagers. So it should come as no surprise that these ads have been placed in magazines heavily read by teenagers.

“At the very least, Brown & Williamson should live up to its own standards and stop advertising in Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Spin and other magazines with high youth readership,” Myers said. He displayed some of Brown & Williamson’s advertising Tuesday during a Morning Newsmaker program at the National Press Club

Myers spoke shortly before Nicholas G. Brookes, Chairman and CEO of Brown & Williamson, also spoke at the National Press Club. In a letter published in the Washington Post on Tuesday, the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS and 27 other public health organizations challenged Brown & Williamson to show it is serious about reducing youth tobacco use by taking meaningful steps to do so.

These steps include:

  • Ending its opposition to reasonable regulation of tobacco products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and dropping its lawsuit against the FDA;
  • Revising its “anti-youth smoking” programs to include the truth – that cigarette smoking kills and is addictive;
  • Stopping all marketing practices that impact youth;
  • Taking action to reduce the ease with which kids illegally obtain cigarettes.

Organizations signing the letter included the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the American Medical Association.

The letter states: “If Brown & Williamson is serious about acting responsibly, it needs to move forward with these concrete actions to reduce youth smoking. If you fail to act, your statements of concern about youth smoking can only be seen as a hollow public relations gesture rather than meaningful corporate change.”