Protecting Children From Tobacco Marketing and Sales

Nicotine candy for kids. Cigarette brands for teens. Sounds outrageous, but in the late 1960s and 1970s, according to a series of internal tobacco industry documents leaked to the public, RJ Reynolds, U.S. Tobacco and other tobacco companies were seriously trying to come up with ways to market smoking to children.Even as late as 1984, a leaked RJ Reynolds report identified younger adult smokers, particularly 18-year-olds, as the "critical factor" behind the success of every leading cigarette brand. This proves that the company has long understood the importance of attracting young smokers and appears to contradict the tobacco industry's claim that they only advertise to persuade current smokers to switch brands.These reports come to light at a time when the rate of smoking among youth has reached its highest level in 16 years, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Among eighth graders, smoking rose by one-third in 1995, to nineteen percent of all students at that level. Twenty-eight percent of all tenth graders now smoke.It is clear that the anti-smoking campaigns for kids so highly touted by the tobacco industry are not working. After launching its youth access prevention program, "Action Against Access," Philip Morris has yet to adhere to many of its provisions. Retailers were to be denied merchandising benefits if they were caught selling cigarettes to minors, but when Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III gave Philip Morris a list of offenders, the company took no action against any of the retailers. A CDC study shows that underage buyers are able to purchase tobacco products over the counter about seventy-three percent of the time and ninety-six percent from vending machines.In another well-publicized campaign, RJ Reynolds announced that they would suspend billboard advertising for a year. It only took seven weeks from the day of the press release for Joe Camel to return to the tops and sides of buildings. A study published in Health Psychology showed that sudden increases in adolescent smoking coincided with large scale cigarette promotional campaigns, and another study found that children are three times more sensitive to cigarette advertising than adults.The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington D.C. says that the Food and Drug Administration and the government must step in and protect children from tobacco products and tobacco marketing by strengthening existing laws and creating new ones. The group is also trying to get elected officials to stop taking campaign money from tobacco companies."We're asking politicians to stop trading our kids' lives for tobacco money," says William Novelli, President of the Campaign. "We're urging voters to tell their elected officials that our kids are not for sale, and to stop taking tobacco cash."

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