Tobacco Companies Still Target Youths with Magazine Ads
Three years after the tobacco industry agreed to curtail advertising in magazines with a "significant" readership under age 18, three companies continue to market their products in magazines like Rolling Stone, People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated and TV Guide, the New York Times reports. Under the 1998 national tobacco settlement, the industry agreed not to advertise in publications if more than 15% or more than two million of its readers are under age 18 (New York Times, 8/15). Also, cigarette manufacturers were banned from using cartoon characters and billboards to advertise their products. Despite the agreement, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard have continued such magazine advertising, saying that the settlement agreement is only a "guidelin[e] and not a law." Philip Morris, however, has followed the ban, pulling advertisements from 50 magazines with young readers last year, the Times reports. According to a study to be released today in the New England Journal of Medicine, the settlement has had "little effect" on minors' exposure to cigarette advertising. For example, the most recent issue of People had a two page ad for Newports, a Lorillard cigarette, even though the magazine has 2.7 million readers under age 18, according to figures from Simmons Mark Research Bureau.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D), who worked on the original settlement, said that the companies are violating their written "pledge" not to "take action directly or indirectly to target youth." Because of the continued advertisement, Lockyer, along with the attorneys general of Oregon, New York, Ohio and Washington, is suing R.J. Reynolds. Jan Smith, a spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds, said that the company had opted to follow a different standard -- less than 25% of a magazine's readership must be under age 18, or, if such information is not available, the median age of a publication's readership "ought to be 23" for the company to purchase advertising space. Smith added that R.J. Reynolds examines magazines' editorial content and other advertising, such as alcohol, when determining if a publication is aimed at adults. To guarantee that "underage readers" were not subjected to tobacco advertising, Smith said there would need to be a "ban [on] all cigarette advertising in magazines," adding, "And that was not the intent of the settlement agreement. We never agreed to that." Brown & Williamson spokesperson Steve Kottak said that the company did not advertise in magazines with readerships of more than 15% under age 18 but failed to follow the more than two million youth readers guideline. Lorillard officials said they had "overlooked the two million reader rule." Steve Watson, a spokesperson for Lorillard, which has pulled ads from Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, said, "We are making a responsible effort to target only adult audiences. We will look at new research as it comes in." The Times reports that magazine publishers say they are "comfortable" with tobacco ads (Kuczynski, New York Times, 8/15).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.