Should tobacco advertising be restricted? This is a very controversial issue. There is the idea that young children that smoke started smoking because of advertisements, but there is also the idea that children start smoking for other reasons. Many big, well-known tobacco companies like RJ Reynolds are being sued for their advertisements. On Monday April 20th, 1998 the jury heard a testimony from Lynn Beasly, the marketing vice president of the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. The courts believed that the advertisement was directed towards children under the age of 18, due to a document from the RJ Reynolds Board of Directors showing that they set a goal to increase the company’s market share among 14 to 24 year olds. Lynn Beasly claimed that she didn’t know if an ad directed toward an 18-year-old would also attract children under the age of 18. She also stated that the “Joe Camel” campaign was not intended to target children. Tobacco companies say that youth smokers are not especially valuable to the companies. So all these lawsuits are useless. What makes no sense is that the government makes more money per pack of cigarettes than any other cigarette company, and they’re the ones suing and bringing up these statistics and issues.
In this case in particular a cartoon character was used to sell cigarettes to adults. Many tobacco companies use objects that would attract children, like actors and actresses and scenes in their favorite movies. Tobacco advertisers also make tobacco use seem sexy, fun, glamorous, macho and most insidiously healthful. Directors of movies put tobacco scenes in movies with some of children’s favorite actors like Will Smith, Robin Williams, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, and even the famous cartoon character, Roger Rabbit. Some movies that these actors are in have had large youth box office takes, like; “A Time to Kill”, “Independence Day”, “Birdcage”, “Mission Impossible” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” The actors in these movies are some children’s role models.
There are a lot of surprising statistics that make the government and the people sue big tobacco advertisers. Like the fact that tobacco is the only legal product that causes death and disability when used as intended. Cigarettes kill more than 400,000 Americans every year, that’s more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined. Several studies have found nicotine to be addictive in ways similar to those of heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. Smokers have almost twice the risk of having coronary heart disease as nonsmokers. Smokers’ risk of getting lung cancer is approximately 14 times than that of nonsmokers. It has taken many years for tobacco products deadly effects to be scientifically documented. Tobacco companies spend approximately $14 million a day on advertising. Students who own cigarette promotional items are more than four times more likely to begin smoking, compared to those who do not own these items. Eighty-six percent of people between 12 and 17-years old who smoke prefer the three most heavily advertised brands. Only about one-third of adult smokers choose these brands. Almost ninety percent of adult smokers began at or before age 18. A recent study showed that thirty-four percent of teens began smoking as a result of the tobacco company’s promotional activities. Tobacco companies loose 3,000-5,000 customers each day, more than 1,000 die from using tobacco as intended, the rest die of other causes. The tobacco industry targets 1.63 million new smokers a year to compensate for those that quit or die. The average age of new smokers in the United States right now is 12. Since the 1980s, big tobacco companies have supported a number of efforts to reduce youth access to cigarettes at retail. Thirty percent of teens that smoke say that they were able to obtain cigarettes from retail stores. Thirty-two percent of kids who smoke say they borrow cigarettes from people. Another twenty-three percent of kids get their cigarettes by having an old enough person buy it for them. Philip Morris Tobacco Company supports the state legislative efforts that would provide tougher penalties for retailers who violate the minimum-age sales laws; they would also restrict vending machine location. They would also have penalties for adults who purchase tobacco products for minors and penalties for minors who purchase, posses, or use tobacco products.
Big tobacco companies have also tried to reduce youth access to tobacco in homes and in communities. They have launched a print advertising campaign that is running in magazines nationwide to remind parents and other adults to keep their cigarettes away from kids. They are also developing an awareness campaign to remind adults that they should not be buying cigarettes for kids. RJ Reynolds and many other big tobacco companies have the idea of adult choice. They say that although it is appropriate for governments and health authorities to encourage people to avoid risky behaviors, they do not believe that they should prohibit adults from choosing to smoke. The decision as to whether or not to smoke should be left to the individual adult.
Two solutions to this problem are to restrict the advertisements to things only adults are going to see and to create new advertisements against the use of tobacco by teens.
A good solution to reduce the bad effects that tobacco advertising has on children would be to restrict all tobacco ads from anything a child might be able to get their hands on. It is a known fact that some children watch the same television as adults, the same is true for some of the magazines they read. To restrict all the television commercials that show healthy, beautiful people enjoying tobacco products would make a major difference in the visual influence that tobacco advertisers have on the younger population. To make commercials demoting the use of the tobacco and making children aware of the bad, long-term effects would be a very positive visual influence on children contemplating smoking. Children are very easily influenced, especially through television and magazine advertisement, so if they were to have advertisements demoting tobacco use then they might actually see the truth about the danger of tobacco. The visual advertisement is a much more effective method of getting a point across. Television has restricted the commercials, but the movie industry still promotes tobacco use in today’s movies. If a child sees their favorite action hero smoking they think its cool. They will do anything to be like them, especially today’s cartoon characters. If a child reads in a magazine that his favorite wrestler smokes, that would be a major influence on him. Once again proving the visual is more powerful than the spoken word.
The advantages of this solution would be that now the thirty-four percent of teens who began smoking because of the advertisements they saw will now not smoke due to the lack of advertisements. This will not eliminate the problem, but it will definitely decrease the amount of new underage smokers. This shouldn’t bother the tobacco companies because they claim that they do not direct their advertisements towards children anyway, so they would not lose any popularity or money. A lot of magazines and movie directors would be willing to eliminate the use of tobacco and tobacco ads, but then again, a lot would not.
The problem with this solution is to get the companies to eliminate the use of tobacco ads and use. The tobacco companies pay the magazines to put their ads in their magazines, a lot of money. Some magazine companies might not think that tobacco ads are that bad or the tobacco companies money might be their main contribution, so they will not give up the ads. And since the government can not do anything about the magazine ads, it’s totally up to the companies. In some movies, a cigarette is believed to complete a character. It gives them a certain personality and style, so the movie directors might not want to give that up because it could be a very important part in the characters personality. Another bad part of this solution is figuring out what magazines to restrict the ads from. Children can get their hands on a lot of things, obviously if some smoke, so it would be hard to choose what magazine to focus on.
Another solution to this problem would to be to reinforce the bad effects of tobacco use using commercials, billboards, magazine articles, and newspaper articles.If children were constantly reminded of the bad effects of tobacco use, then they would get the picture. If every once in a while in between cartoons a commercial came on that said that 400,000 people die every year of tobacco use, kids would have all their attention on that commercial. Even if in their cartoons, the characters said bad things about tobacco use and the truths of tobacco use, the children would understand, and they might think twice about smoking. If a child sees all bad things about smoking and tobacco use and no good they are definitely more likely not to smoke. There is still the sixty-six percent of teen smokers that began smoking for other reasons than the advertisements, but thirty-four percent less teenage smokers is better than nothing. By this method, the children would be more aware of the long-term effects of tobacco use, and they would realize that it’s not all good.
The only bad thing is that the tobacco advertisers would get a bad reputation because of all the bad commercials, billboards, newspaper articles, and magazine articles. The tobacco companies might not like this and might get back at the bad advertisements by increasing their marketing spending and not decreasing it. Therefore the problem wouldn’t be solved.
I believe that the tobacco companies should restrict all tobacco ads, especially from magazines, television, and movies seen mostly by children. What would need to be done would be to conduct a survey seeing which magazines children from the ages 12-17 read, which television shows they watch and who their favorite actresses and actors are. Then eliminate the ones that are least likely. It would be clear which magazine articles, television shows and which actors to eliminate tobacco use and advertisement from. This would definitely not be an easy task to accomplish, but to decrease the number of children smokers would make the effort worth it. Another difficulty would be to get the companies to agree to this. But I also believe that if the companies were aware of the bad effects of tobacco and the effects the advertisements have on children, they would change their minds and take those factors into consideration. This suggestion will not be successful immediately, but it is the most logical solution.
If other companies were to demote tobacco and its effects on national television, I believe that the tobacco companies would get mad and would try to get back at those companies by increasing marketing spending and that would only make the problem worse. If the advertising is only eliminated in some magazines and some television shows then the tobacco companies shouldn’t care because they’re still making money. Children are very easily influenced and this will eliminate the opportunity for them to see their role models smoking and it will also isolate them from the ads in their favorite magazines. This will also decrease the thirty-four percent of teens that began smoking because of the advertisements. This will also decrease the eighty-six percent of people who smoke the three most heavily advertised brands. The likeliness of children to smoke who encounter tobacco promotional items will decrease. Ninety-percent of adults who smoke now started before the age of 18. If all of these numbers decrease then the overall amount of children who smoke will decrease and almost disappear.
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Reynolds, RJ Tobacco Company. “Health Issues.”
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Youth Media Network. “Tobacco Advertising.” 16 Nov. 2000
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