Fighting the Ads
"We have been asked by our client to come up with a package design... a design that is attractive to kids... while this cigarette is geared to the youth market. No attempt (obvious) can be made to encourage persons under twenty-one to smoke." This excerpt is from a letter from a Lorillard account executive to a marketing professor on August 13, 1970, years before big tobacco executives (including those from Lorillard) swore under oath that they have never targeted their products at youth.
The tobacco industry (also called "big tobacco") has been keeping records including statements like this since they began their businesses. Up until a court ruling in 1998 (the Master Settlement Agreement), these documents have been kept a secret from the public. After years of suspecting the tobacco companies (Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard) were targeting their deadly products at teens, we finally had the proof we needed to support our suspicions. These companies had huge filing rooms with hundreds of millions of documents that were previously confidential, carefully filed away, and now released for anyone and everyone to see. After hearing statements like ."..
the base of our business is the high-school student," (Lorillard) and "We were targeting kids, and I said at the time it was unethical and maybe illegal, but I was told it was just company policy," (RJ Reynolds), teens began fighting back. The tobacco industry has always been restricted in their advertising. Even in the 1950 s when television was an important advertising mechanism, tobacco companies were not allowed to specifically target teenagers, even before the general public knew about the health and addiction risks (the tobacco companies have known since the early 1930 s). Even though RJ Reynolds has been quoted saying, "At the outset, it should be said that we are presently, and I believe unfairly, constrained from directly promoting cigarettes to the youth markets," tobacco companies have managed to "rich out" to thousands of youth everyday.
By employing popular television stars in the early television commercials and now paying movie stars thousands of dollars to use their cigarettes in movies, the tobacco companies have been able to make us believe that smoking is "glamorous", "sophisticated", and "cool." Kids looked up the the rough 'n' tough Marlboro Man and later thought Joe Camel was "the coolest." Now we know all of that has been the companies' underhanded ways of targeting teens. Even after the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, tobacco companies continue to target their products at teens. Since tobacco companies are no longer allowed to use television or billboards for their advertisements, tobacco advertising in magazines frequently read by teens (such as "Vibe", "Sport", "Sports Illustrated", "Spin", and "Rolling Stone" that have teens making up 21 to almost 29 percent of their readers) has been on the increase, as well as advertising in convenience stores. Three out of every four teens frequents a convenience store at least once a week, exposing themselves to countless numbers of advertisements each time they step into the store. How do we know these advertisements are having any sort of effect on teenagers? When RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company increased their advertising budget for their "Joe Camel" campaign, youth smoking Camel brand increased by more than 50 percent in one year.
Its adult market did not change. While only 50 percent of smokers over the age of 25 smoke one of the three most advertised brands -- Marlboro, Camel, and Newport -- a whopping 87 percent of youth smokers prefer one of these three brands. A stud in 202 also reveals that this advertising even undermines the efforts of parents trying to prevent their children from smoking. Because of the efforts of the tobacco companies, nearly four thousand teenagers try their first cigarette everyday, and more than half of those become regular smokers. Tobacco companies have even gone so far as to initiate a program called Project S. C.
U. M. (Sub-Culture Urban Marketing). When S.
C. U. M. was first started, it focused on targeting numerous groups including the gay and lesbian community and Generation X (who at the time were still mainly teenagers).
In recent years teenagers and adults have been fighting big tobacco in many ways. Youth-run organizations such as Minnesota's "Target Market", Florida's "Truth", Delaware's "Kick Butts Generation", and just n the past year North Dakota's "Students Taking a Stand" ahve become some of the most effective anti-tobacco campaigns in history. One year after the Target Market was formed, youth smoking in Minnesota decreased by 25 percent. Teenagers are getting the facts about health risks and even the ways.