ADVERTISING: New Efforts Underway to Curb Teen Smoking
Antismoking ads, aimed at teens and orchestrated by the not-for-profit group the American Legacy Foundation, hit the airwaves Monday, signalling the "largest, most richly funded public-health crusade in U.S. history," the Wall Street Journal reports. The $1.5 billion campaign is funded by the 1998 settlement with tobacco makers. The first ad uses the "extreme-sports style," usually reserved to sell soft drinks to teens. It depicts three kids bungee-jumping with the first two grabbing a soda, drinking it "as they shoot skyward." But the third jumper bursts into a ball of flames in midair after opening his can. The onscreen message reads: "Only one product actually kills a third of the people who use it. Tobacco." The initial focus of the ads is preventing kids from starting to smoke. According to U.S. public-health statistics, some 3,000 children begin lighting up everyday, a third of whom will eventually die of smoking-related illnesses. American Legacy hopes to offer teens an alternative "brand" called "Truth." Jeff Hicks, president of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, one of American Legacy's ad agencies, said, "Kids use tobacco for the same reasons they pierce their ears or dye their hair. They're trying to make a statement to their friends and their parents that they're in control of their life." Under the settlement, the ads cannot include "any personal attack on, or vilification of" any person, company or government agency. Later ads will encourage smokers to quit and warn of the dangers of second-hand smoke (Fairclough, 2/8).
As Seen on TV!
More research is showing the power that television might have on teens' behavior. TV watching-teens who think "alcohol will make them happy and popular" and think shows depict reality are 33% more likely to be drinkers and even bingers. The study by media researcher Erica Weintraub Austin of Washington State University, published in the journal Pediatrics, also found that kids who watched late-night talk shows were "slightly more inclined" to use alcohol. Interviewing 578 teens in the ninth through 12th grades, she found two-thirds had at least one alcoholic beverage in the past six months and about one-third had been in a car with a drinking driver. The up side to Austin's report is the influence parents have over their kids. Those whose parents criticized TV shows saw "less benefit in alcohol and were less likely to drink." "TV messages are important, but parents are a bigger influence," she said. Dale Kunkel of the University of California-Santa Barbara said the study "shows parents' comments do matter. ... The bottom line is that media play a role, but parents can moderate that influence" (Elias, USA Today, 2/8).