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Cigarette-makers accused of increasing ads that target teens
Tobacco companies refute charges
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Anti-tobacco activists charged Wednesday that cigarette-makers have dramatically increased magazine advertising aimed at teen-agers, violating an agreement prohibiting a targeting of that age group.
Tobacco companies, however, insist they are complying. "It's something we take very seriously," Ellen Merlo, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris Companies, the nation's largest cigarette-maker, told The Wall Street Journal.
Under a settlement signed in 1998, tobacco companies agreed to pay billions of dollars to cover smoking-related health costs. The deal with 46 states also forced companies to end billboard advertising and certain other marketing tactics, such as using cartoon images like Joe Camel.
Since then, much cigarette advertising money has been redirected to magazines read by young people, according to studies released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the American Legacy Foundation.
The foundation, created specifically to discourage youth smoking, was formed as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).
In total dollars, tobacco advertising in these magazines increased from $90.2 million to $119.9 million. In the first three quarters of 1999, this amounted to more than a third of all tobacco company magazine advertising. Four of the five leading youth brands -- Marlboro, Camel, Kool and Newport -- increased their advertising spending in youth-oriented publications (the fifth, Winston, remained essentially unchanged).
Marlboro (made by Philip Morris), by far the most popular brand among youth, increased its spending in such publications by nearly 25 percent, from $20.9 million to $26.1 million, and Kool (Brown and Williamson) increased its spending by 75 percent, from $5.7 million to $10 million.
"Our study shows clearly that the tobacco companies have not stopped marketing to children since the Master Settlement Agreement; they have merely altered the way they do it, and in fact, may be doing it even more effectively," said Greg Connolly, director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program.
"This is the first step in an ongoing research to determine if the industry is violating the MSA," he said in a news release.
A group of state attorneys general is investigating the surge in cigarette advertising in magazines with large youth readership.
Christine Gregoire, Washington states attorney general, told The Wall Street Journal that she and other state attorneys general have told cigarette-makers that their ads are inappropriate.
Anti-tobacco activists welcomed such news.
"We call on the state attorneys general to begin their enforcement proceeding immediately, to bring to a halt the massive advertising targeting our children," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
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