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Two New Studies Confirm Tobacco Industry Has Increased Advertising Aimed at Children Since State Settlement

Health Groups Urge Attorneys General to Investigate Settlement Violation and Call on Congress to Grant FDA Authority over Tobacco
May 17, 2000

Washington, DC — Two studies released today show that the tobacco companies have increased magazine advertising aimed at kids since signing the Master Settlement Agreement with the state Attorneys General in November 1998. These studies show that the tobacco companies have dramatically increased their advertising spending in magazines read by large numbers of kids and that this advertising is reaching larger numbers of youth with the frequency needed to have a strong impact.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that tobacco advertising in magazines with at least 15 percent youth readership (12 to 17 years old) increased by almost $30 million, or 33 percent, from the first three quarters of 1998 (prior to the settlement) to the first three quarters of 1999 (after the settlement). In total dollars, tobacco advertising in these magazines increased from $90.2 million to $119.9 million. In the first three quarters of 1999, this amounted to more than a third of all tobacco company magazine advertising.

The study also found that, rather than reducing their advertising budgets in response to the settlement's ban on billboard and other outdoor tobacco advertising, the tobacco companies redirected the money, primarily to magazines. Four of the five leading youth brands – Marlboro, Camel, Kool and Newport – increased their advertising spending in youth-oriented publications (the fifth, Winston, remained essentially unchanged). Philip Morris' Marlboro, by far the most popular brand among youth, increased its spending in such publications by nearly 25 percent, from $20.9 to $26.1 million, and Brown & Williamson's Kool increased its spending by 75 percent, from $5.7 million to $10 million.

'The tobacco companies ask us to judge them by their actions, and that is what our study does,' said Greg Connolly, Director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. 'Our study shows clearly that the tobacco companies have not stopped marketing to childen since the Master Settlement Agreement; they have merely altered the way they do it, and in fact, may be doing it even more effectively. This is the first step in an ongoing research to determine if the industry is violating the MSA.'

Researchers for the American Legacy Foundation found that tobacco advertising in magazines reaches a huge majority of kids with alarming frequency and that this reach has increased dramatically since the settlement for several brands. The Foundation reported that eight of the top ten cigarette brands each reached at least 70 percent of 12 to 17 year olds five or more times – considered at or near optimal exposure – with magazine advertising in all of 1999. Marlboro, Kool and Winston each reached at least 89 percent of youth with that frequency in 1999.

The Foundation's study also found that the number of youth reached five or more times by tobacco magazine advertising increased dramatically from the first three quarters of 1998 to the first three quarters of 1999 for several brands, including Newport (43 to 68 percent), Kool (59 to 84 percent), and Camel (65 to 77 percent). Winston and Marlboro had already reached at least 86 percent of kids with that frequency and maintained these levels from 1998 to 1999 (measured over three quarters only).

'This data does not surprise us. Instead, it reminds us that what the tobacco marketers say and what they do are very often two different things,' said American Legacy Foundation President Cheryl Healton. 'Not only are they continuing to target youth through magazine advertisements, but they're doing it more than ever before and at levels that almost ensure that their brand messages will be memorable and impactful with teens.'

These studies were released in the wake of multimillion dollar public relations, advertising, and marketing campaigns by the tobacco companies in which they claim that they have changed and now market responsibly only to adults. A Brown & Williamson executive has stated publicly that the company does not place ads in magazines with more than 15 percent youth readership. Philip Morris' web site states, 'Cigarette brand advertising does not appear in publications directed primarily to those under 21 years of age.' And R.J. Reynolds web site states, 'We do not want children to smoke, nor do we market this adult product to minors.'

In addition, the Master Settlement Agreement states, 'No participating manufacturer may take any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth within any settling states in the advertising, promotion or marketing of tobacco products.'

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids called on the state Attorneys General to take immediate legal action to enforce the provisions of the settlement. They also called on Congress to take two actions: enact legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration meaningful authority to regulate tobacco and reject efforts to block funding for the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

'The same tobacco companies that lied under oath before Congress about the addictiveness of tobacco are now lying to us about their continued efforts to market to and addict kids,' said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 'The tobacco companies have proven once again that they will exploit every loophole they can find to continue targeting kids. They will not be stopped until Congress gives the FDA strong, enforceable authority to regulate tobacco. The tobacco company practices exposed by these studies underscore why we cannot settle for ineffective, loophole-riddled measures such as the FDA legislation introduced by Senator Bill Frist on Tuesday.'

Public health organizations have expressed support for bipartisan FDA bills introduced by Senators Harkin, Chafee and Graham and Representatives Ganske, Dingell and Waxman, as well as legislation being introduced by Senator Kennedy that mirrors the FDA provisions of the 1998 McCain bill.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the FDA lacks authority to regulate tobacco under current law. That ruling overturned the FDA's 1996 rule that limited tobacco advertising in publications with significant youth readership (those with either 15 percent or two million readers under age 18) to black and white print only.

'These magazine ads would not have been permitted had the FDA's 1996 rule gone into effect or had Congress passed the legislation introduced by Senator McCain in 1998,' Myers said. 'If Congress fails to act in the wake of these studies, the American public must hold their representatives accountable.'

John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO of the American Cancer Society, said, 'These two new studies, combined with today's expose in The Wall Street Journal on Big Tobacco's increased marketing to children, once again underscore the need for Congress to pass strong and meaningful regulation over tobacco products. When it comes to kids, the actions of Big Tobacco speak more loudly than their rhetoric. Despite all their promises, it is clear that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted to decide for themselves how to avoid marketing to kids.'

M. Cass Wheeler, CEO of the American Heart Association said, 'These two studies, along with today's story in The Wall Street Journal, provide more proof that tobacco companies are routinely, and intentionally, aiming their advertising practices squarely at the hearts and minds of young kids. Unfortunately, it's these same hearts and minds that will eventually pay the ultimate price for an early addiction to nicotine in the form of heart disease and stroke.'