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New Book Shows True Impact of Cigarette Advertising on Kids

Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 11, 2001

Washington, DC — A new book, Smoking: Risk, Perception and Policy, released today in Washington by the Annenberg Center on Public Policy of the University of Pennsylvania and the American Academy of Political and Social Science, paints a chilling picture of just how effective cigarette advertising truly is in making smoking attractive and acceptable to kids. The tobacco industry has long maintained that the huge sums it spends on advertising and marketing its deadly products each year do not cause young people to start smoking but rather only reinforce already-held brand preferences. The Annenberg research shows clearly that cigarette advertising lays the groundwork for smoking initiation by kids and that tobacco industry claims otherwise are either misguided or deliberate lies.

The Annenberg research demonstrates that our nation's policy makers must do more to restrict tobacco advertising that impacts children and adequately fund comprehensive tobacco prevention programs that include effective messages to counter the tobacco ads that our kids are exposed to every day.

The new book demonstrates the necessity for Congress to pass legislation giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco advertising and marketing, as well as other aspects of tobacco manufacturing and sales. In addition, the Annenberg research should serve as a wake-up call for states that have not yet done so to invest funds from the 1998 state tobacco settlement in effective, comprehensive tobacco prevention programs.

The tobacco companies currently spend more than $8 billion annually on advertising and marketing tobacco products. They're getting their money's worth. The new research from Annenberg demonstrates that adolescents and young adults (ages 14-29) are more likely to recall cigarette ads than those over 30. The images in cigarette advertising cause young people to associate smoking with positive images of popularity and relaxation. The positive feelings engendered in young people by cigarette advertising are stronger than any perceived risk from exposure to anti-smoking messages. The Annenberg research also shows that 14-22 year-olds still don't have a realistic sense of the addictive nature of smoking nor do they recognize the risks of smoking.

More than a million of our kids become new smokers every year. Unless our legislators act now, this pediatric epidemic of tobacco use will continue. If it does, the big winners will be the tobacco companies. The losers are America's kids and families.