Study: Tobacco Firms Still Target Youths

ByABC News
August 15, 2001, 10:21 AM

Aug. 15 -- If you thought tobacco companies were backing off their efforts to target youths since their agreement with the government to curb youth advertising, think again, says a new study.

A report today in The New England Journal of Medicine says tobacco companies are targeting youths in their magazine advertising more than ever before, despite the efforts of the Master Settlement Agreement enacted in 1998.

This agreement, commonly known as the MSA, allowed tobacco companies to pay 46 states an estimated $206 billion in damages over 25 years to cover tobacco-related health costs. It also restricted tobacco advertising to people under 18 and banned outdoor advertising and cartoon images like Joe Camel in cigarette ads.

But despite this agreement, overall advertising spending for youth brands in youth-oriented magazines has increased almost 6 percent to $59.6 million in 2000 from $56.4 million in 1995, the study says.

"We believe that's strong evidence that cigarette companies are targeting kids in their advertising," says Dr. Michael Siegel, associate professor at Boston University's School of Public Health and co-author of the study. "Even if they're not intentionally doing it, it's what they're doing."

Youth Brands Highlighted

For their part, tobacco industry officials say they are being vigilant in trying to reduce youth exposure to tobacco advertising. But the study concludes these efforts haven't gone far enough.

Youth-targeted magazines that have seen a dramatic jump in cigarette ad sales for youth brands since 1995 include Rolling Stone Magazine, Mademoiselle and Premiere, according to the report. Representatives of these magazines did not return calls seeking comment.

The study defines youth brands as those smoked by more than 5 percent of the smokers in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades in 1998. Those were Marlboro, Newport and Camel.

Youth-oriented magazines are defined as those that had at least 15 percent or an average of at least 2 million of their readers between the ages of 12 to 17 years old. Many tobacco companies, like Philip Morris, use these criteria, originally proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, to help determine what constitutes a youth-oriented magazine.