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Tobacco companies are attracting young smokers even without billboards and cartoon characters like Joe Camel, researchers said yesterday in urging new advertising restrictions.
Teen-agers surveyed over the past two years vividly recalled ads featuring carefree smokers. Many of the youth also underestimated the health risks and addictions of smoking, said Dan Romer, a research director at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Banning pictures from ads would help end the image that smoking is fun and give marketing campaigns about tobacco dangers a chance to work, he added.
Romer and leaders of anti-tobacco groups said findings in the new study should be used to lobby states and the federal government to restrict tobacco advertising. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a constitutional challenge of state curbs on tobacco ads. Legislation is pending in Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco.
Any government regulation "needs to be balanced with preserving our ability to communicate with adult smokers," Brendan McCormick, a spokesman for New York-based Philip Morris Inc., told the Associated Press.
As part of a 1998 settlement of state lawsuits, the tobacco industry was banned from using billboard ads and cartoon characters, such as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s Joe Camel. R.J. Reynolds said in a statement that it supports efforts to prevent underage smoking and complies with the settlement.
"We think our advertising is responsible," said Mark Smith, a spokesman for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. "The changes have been dramatic. Unfortunately there are those you'll never satisfy."
The five largest cigarette manufacturers spent $8.2 billion on advertising and promotions in 1999, according to the Federal Trade Commission.