Studies: Tobacco Targeting Teens

Wednesday, May 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cigarette makers have increased advertising in magazines with large teen readerships since 1998, when they agreed in a court settlement to not target youths in their ads, according to two studies released Wednesday.

State officials who participated in the $206 billion settlement two years ago said the findings show tobacco companies may be violating the settlement terms.

Attorneys general from around the country are now in the ``discovery'' phase of an investigation into cigarette advertising placements, according to Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

Cigarette makers said the studies were misleading. One of the studies was by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the other was done by the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit group funded by the settlement.

``There's nothing that a tobacco company can do that won't receive criticism from the special interest groups that have their own political agenda,'' said Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Kentucky-based Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation.

The 1998 agreement settled lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers brought by 46 states to recover the costs of treating sick smokers.

One section of the settlement forbids tobacco companies from ``targeting'' persons under 18 in their advertising, marketing and promotions.

The Massachusetts study compared cigarette advertising expenditures in magazines before and after the settlement, focusing on 19 popular magazines with more than 15 percent of their readership between the ages of 12 and 17. Fifteen percent was the level used by the Food and Drug administration in its efforts to regulate tobacco. Magazines in that category include Rolling Stone, Glamour, Sports Illustrated and Motor Trend.

Examples included a Rolling Stone issue with teen-age singing star Brittney Spears on the front cover and a full-page Marlboro ad on the back.

In the first nine months of 1999, cigarette makers spent $119.9 million advertising, much of it on brands most popular with young smokers, in magazines with a significant percentage of teen readers, the study found. That is almost $30 million more than was spent in the same magazines in the corresponding period before the settlement, the study said.

A similar study by the American Legacy Foundation found more than 70 percent of teen-agers in 1999 had seen cigarette advertisements often enough to notice them and understand their content.

Advertisements for Marlboro, the favorite brand of young smokers, reached 89 percent of teen-agers, the study found.

The studies used commercial marketing surveys to assess the popularity of various magazines among young readers. Cigarette makers say those numbers don't represent who really reads the publications.

Brown and Williamson has pulled all advertising from magazines with a significant percentage of readers under 21, Smith said, basing its decisions on demographic data provided by magazine publishers.

Philip Morris USA carefully researches publications before choosing to place advertisements where they reach adult smokers but don't bombard youth, said company spokesman Tom Ryan. The company, which makes Marlboro, will no longer advertise on the back cover of any magazine, he added.

President Bill Clinton used the studies to call on Congress to pass strict tobacco laws.

``The FDA's hands should not remain tied by Congressional inaction,'' Clinton said.


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