Young people still face a barrage of cigarette advertising in magazines, even though the 1998 settlement between the states and the tobacco industry prohibits targeting minors with ads, researchers say. The amount of money the tobacco industry spends placing ads in youth-oriented magazines for cigarettes popular with teenagers has remained virtually unchanged since 1995, according to an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"The Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry appears to have had little effect on cigarette advertising in magazines. The overall level of exposure of young people to this advertising remained high," Boston University and Harvard Business School researchers said. During the year 2000, more than 80 percent of the nation's young people under age 18 were exposed to an average of 17 magazine ads for cigarette brands known to be popular among adolescents, the researchers found. "Tobacco companies continued to advertise at the same or greater levels in 1999 and 2000 for the three brands most popular with youth -- Marlboro, Camel and Newport," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "The tobacco companies have not changed and are violating the promise they made in the settlement to stop marketing their deadly products to children."
Cigarette companies quickly denied they have violated the agreement, which settled lawsuits filed by 46 states seeking compensation for the health costs of treating smokers. "We do not and will not advertise in magazines that specifically target minors. We only advertise in magazines that are predominantly read by adults," R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Executive Vice President Tommy Payne said. Lorillard Tobacco Co. said it recently agreed to stop advertising in Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated because of concerns about young readers. "We do not market or advertise our products to kids," Lorillard Vice President Steve Watson said. Researchers who studied 15 specific brands of cigarettes said the tobacco industry spent $216.9 million advertising those brands in 38 magazines between in 2000, down only slightly from the $219.3 million spent in 1998.
Advertising for brands popular with kids in magazines popular with young readers totaled $59.6 million in 2000, a larger amount than the $56.4 million spent in 1995 and the $58.5.4 million spent in 1998, the study found. Philip Morris announced last year it would stop advertising in youth-oriented magazines beginning in September 2000. But the researchers said "this voluntary policy ... does not appear adequate to protect young people from substantial exposure to cigarette advertising." The nation's third-largest cigarette manufacturer, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., also reduced its advertising in magazines with a high proportion of young readers, the researchers acknowledged.
Brown & Williamson said it is working with the publishers of Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone to ensure its ads would only appear in magazines sent to subscribers who have confirmed they are at least 21 years of age. Newsstand editions of those magazines would not include ads for its products, the Louisville, Ky.-based company said. In an accompanying editorial in the journal, Myers and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler said marketing expenditures by cigarette companies rose 22 percent to a record $8.24 billion in 1999, the year after the agreement with the states was signed. "The use of in-store promotions, discounts on cigarette brands favored by children and free gifts that appeal to young people skyrocketed," Myers and Kessler said.
When state governments filed lawsuits against the tobacco industry in the late 1990s, they said they were seeking reimbursement for the costs of treating illnesses caused by smoking. However, a report released last week by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that less than 5 percent of settlement funds are being used for tobacco prevention programs. Only five states are funding programs at the minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the report said.