New Study Shows Tobacco Advertising… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

New Study Shows Tobacco Advertising Impacts Kids More Than Adults; Three-Quarters of Teens Also Say It Is Easy for Minors to Buy Cigarettes

April 05, 2000

View survey results at

Washington, DC - As kids across America stand up to Big Tobacco on the fifth annual Kick Butts Day, the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today released a new study showing that the tobacco industry continues to market in ways that impact kids more than adults despite the industry’s promises to change its ways. The study also shows that three-quarters of America’s teenagers say it is easy for people under 18 to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, and two-thirds say it is easy for teens to do so over the Internet.

The study was released as tens of thousands of kids rallied against tobacco at more than 1,000 Kick Butts Day events in all 50 states. Specific findings include:

  • 73 percent of teens (aged 12-17) reported seeing tobacco advertising in the previous two weeks, compared to only 33 percent of adults surveyed. Despite the tobacco industry’s claims to have ceased marketing to kids, these numbers are statistically unchanged from a survey conducted a year ago.
  • In the wake of the November 1998 state tobacco settlement, which banned tobacco billboard advertising, more teens are reporting seeing tobacco ads in magazines. Sixty-one percent of teens who recalled tobacco advertising saw it in magazines, compared to 50 percent a year ago.
  • The tobacco industry continues to place many of its ads in magazines that teens are more likely than adults to read - in some cases, more than three times as likely. For example, 51 percent of teens polled said they regularly read or look at Sports Illustrated, compared to only 16 percent of adults. For People magazine, 35 percent of teens - but only 20 percent of adults - said they regularly read the magazine. Advertising in these magazines contradicts the publicly stated policies of Philip Morris and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. not to advertise in publications with high youth readership.
  • 77 percent of teens say it is easy for people under 18 to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products, and 67 percent said it is easy for teens to do so over the Internet.

The study was released just two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have authority to regulate tobacco products under current law. The ruling overturned a 1996 FDA rule that sought to restrict tobacco marketing and sales to kids. Among other things, the rule established 18 as the nationwide minimum age for purchasing tobacco products, required retailers to check photo identification for all over-the-counter sales, and severely restricted tobacco company marketing and advertising practices, including limiting ads in publications with high youth readership to black and white text only. Only the minimum age and photo ID requirements were in effect as the tobacco industry fought the FDA rule in court, and even those provisions are now voided.

The survey also comes as states across the country debate how much - if any - of their tobacco settlement money to spend on tobacco prevention programs.

'Without protection from federal and state governments, this survey shows that America’s kids are easy prey to Big Tobacco’s marketing and the ‘no questions asked’ attitude of too many retailers,' said CAMPAIGN President Matthew L. Myers. 'Congress needs to act now to give the FDA the same authority over tobacco that it has over all other food and drug products, including the power to protect our kids. And states need to do their part by investing tobacco settlement dollars in comprehensive tobacco prevention programs that we know work.

'On this Kick Butts Day, it is time for our nation’s elected leaders to choose: Our kids or Big Tobacco’s profits,' Myers said.

The study was released at the Kick Butts Day Kick-off in Washington, D.C., a political convention-style rally where kids - including two winners of a national letter-writing contest - told the next President of the United States what they think he should do to protect them from tobacco. More than 20,000 kids across the nation have written letters to the next President, which are being delivered to the candidates’ party headquarters. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala accepted the study results on behalf of President Clinton.

'Each day, nearly 3,000 children become regular smokers, and almost 1,000 of them will die prematurely as a result,' said Secretary Shalala. 'For the past five years, the Clinton Administration has been working hard to crack down on tobacco advertising aimed at children, and to protect our young people from the dangers of tobacco. If we are to protect our children from the harms of tobacco, Congress must now enact the provisions of the FDA rule.'

Teens and adults were also asked in the survey whether they would be more or less likely to support a presidential candidate associated with tobacco. Eighty-eight percent of teens and 69 percent of adults said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who did not accept tobacco campaign contributions. Seventy-six percent of teens and 71 percent of adults were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported restricting tobacco advertising in magazines with high youth readership. Sixty percent of teens and 68 percent of adults were more likely to vote for a candidate who supported regulating tobacco like other consumer products.

The national telephone survey of 520 teens aged 12 to 17 was conducted through the International Communications Research Teen Excel Study from March 1-5, 2000. The full sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The national telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted through ICR’s Excel on the same dates and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Kick Butts Day makes kids leaders in the fight against tobacco as they organize events that highlight the dangers of tobacco use and the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing practices. It is sponsored by the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, the largest non-governmental initiative ever undertaken to reduce youth tobacco use in the United States.