Philip Morris Anti-Smoking Ads Do Not Work, Could Undermine Other Prevention Efforts, Study Says
Anti-smoking advertisements made by the Philip Morris Cos. do not work and actually could "undermine" other anti-smoking campaigns, according to a new study by the American Legacy Foundation, the not-for-profit organization created as part of the 1998 national tobacco settlement and the largest anti-smoking advertiser. In the study, to be published today in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers analyzed teenagers' answers in two national surveys asking about the foundation's "Truth" ad campaign and ads from Philip Morris, which spends more than $100 million per year on anti-smoking spots and has the second-largest television anti-smoking campaign. The study found that exposure to the foundation's ads, which Lorillard Tobacco Co. has alleged "vilify" tobacco companies, is "associated with a marginally statistically significant decrease in the odds" that a teenager will begin smoking in the next year. In comparison, the study found that exposure to Philip Morris' ads, which have a theme of "Think. Don't Smoke" and include a "diverse cas[t] of kids" discussing why they chose not to smoke, was associated with an increase in the odds that a teenager will begin smoking in the next year.
Philip Morris executive Carolyn Levy, who oversees the company's anti-smoking ad campaign, said she has "serious questions" about how the foundation ran its study. Levy defended the company's anti-smoking advertising, saying the ads have been "rigorously tested." For Philip Morris to run an ad, more than 90% of adults and children testing the spots must respond that the ad "clearly communicates a 'no smoking' message," the Wall Street Journal reports. Levy said, "We are confident that our ads convey the intended message to kids, that they shouldn't smoke cigarettes." According to the surveys conducted for the foundation, between 70% and 80% of youths said the Philip Morris spots would "most likely" or "definitely" make "a friend decide not to smoke." However, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids President Matthew Myers said, "These companies know how to talk to kids when they want to." American Legacy Foundation CEO Cheryl Healton, the study's author, added, "It's time for Philip Morris and the rest of the tobacco industry to get out of the youth-prevention business. They have a profound conflict of interest that cannot be overcome" (Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 5/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.