Everyday 3,000 children start smoking, most them between the ages of10 and 18. These kids account for 90 percent of all new smokers. In fact,90 percent of all adult smokers said that they first lit up as teenagers(Roberts). These statistics clearly show that young people are the primetarget in the tobacco wars.
The cigarette manufacturers may deny it, butadvertising and promotion play a vital part in making these facts a reality(Roberts). The kings of these media ploys are Marlboro and Camel. Marlboro uses afictional western character called The Marlboro Man, while Camel uses JoeCamel, a high-rolling, swinging cartoon character. Joe Camel, the smoothcharacter from R.
J. Reynolds, who is shown as a dromedary with completestyle has been attacked by many Tobacco-Free Kids organizations as a majorinfluence on the children of America. Dr. Lonnie Bristow, AMA (AmericanMedical Association) spokesman, remarks that to kids, cute cartooncharacters mean that the product is harmless, but cigarettes are notharmless. They have to know that their ads are influencing the youth under18 to begin smoking(Breo).
Researchers at the Medical College of Georgiareport that almost as many 6-year olds recognize Joe Camel as know MickeyMouse (Breo). That is very shocking information for any parent to hear. The industry denies that these symbols target people under 21 and claimthat their advertising goal is simply to promote brand switching andloyalty. So what do the tobacco companies do to keep their industry alive and well’seemingly, they go toward a market that is not fully aware of the harm that cigarettes are capable of.
Next to addiction, the tobacco industry depends on advertising as its mostpowerful tool in maintaining its success. Addiction is what keeps people smokingday after day; advertising cigarettes with delusive images is what causes millions tobe tempted enough to begin the lethal habit. Cigarettes are the most heavilyadvertised product in America. The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars eachyear to ensure that its products are associated with elegance, prosperity and finesse,rather than lung cancer, bronchitis and heart disease (Taylor 44). Since there is littleto distinguish one brand of cigarettes from the next, cigarettes must be advertisedthrough emotional appeals instead of product benefits. Thus, the cigarette’s appealto the consumer is entirely a matter of perception, or rather, misperception.
There are a few American publications – such as the Readers Digest, GoodHousekeeping, the New Yorker, and Washington Monthly – that do not acceptcigarette advertising as a matter of principle. But for the majority of Americanpublications, the millions of dollars they receive each year from tobaccoadvertisements is not only enough to keep the advertisements running throughoutthe year, but enough to control the material they publish. On many occasions,newspaper and magazine editors have pulled out articles on smoking and health thatthey would have otherwise published if the articles did not have the ability tointerfere with their relations with the cigarette companies. An article in the ColumbiaJournalism Revue, analyzing coverage which leading national magazines had givento cigarettes and cancer in the 1970s, concluded that it was:. . .
unable to find a single article in 7 years of publication that would have givenreaders any clear notion of the nature and extent of the medical and social havocbeing wreaked by the cigarette-smoking habit. . . one must conclude that advertisingrevenue can indeed silence the editors of American magazines.
(qtd. in Taylor 45)Of all of the newspapers and magazines in America, those with the largestpercent of teenage readers seem to be the tobacco industry’s favorite places foradvertising. Similarly, tobacco advertisement remains most popular among billboardslocated closest to colleges, high schools, and even junior highs. This approach ofadvertising to young people has been kept a closely guarded secret since, besidesbeing illegal, the companies are ashamed of it.
If they had a choice, cigarettecompanies would simply keep their business between the adult population and nothave to worry about enticing children into smoking – but that is not the case. Thereare two fundamental reasons why it is necessary for the tobacco industry to markettheir products towards young people (Hilts 63-64):Nicotine addiction, which is paramount to the industry, does not develop inadults. Among adults over age 21 who begin smoking for the first time, over 90percent soon stop completely (65). Among young people ages 12 through 17, whosmoke at least a pack a day, 84 percent reported that they were dependent oncigarettes. Virtually all tobacco use begins at childhood.
Half of the adult smokingpopulation has started by age 14 (Glantz et al. 59); nearly 90 percent of those whowill smoke as adults are already smoking daily by the time they reach age 19. It cantake up to three years of smoking to establish a nicotine addiction; adults simply donot stick with it long enough (Hilts 65). The second reason why it is vital for companies to invite children to smoking,has to do with the state of mind of the adolescent.
Children, by nature, are attractedto many things that the cigarette has to offer them: defiance of authority, a sense ofindividualism (which is an illusion, considering they are one among some 50million), emulation of an admired image, social acceptance by peers, a perception ofmasculinity (for males) or sexiness (for females), and many other false notions thathelp settle various insecurities of the adolescent. Tobacco executives realize that ifthey introduce their products as being capable of relieving numerous socialpressures that teenagers undergo, their products will be perceived this way (to anextent) by a large percentage of children; these children will let the industry affecttheir actions and, ultimately, their lives. It is for these two reasons that the industry must focus their attention onpersuading young people to start smoking. Cigarette companies view theiradvertising approach as an investment.
Young people, who are only a smallpercentage of the market, slowly accumulate in numbers, year by year, and increasetheir habit as they grow older. Eventually, this small group of consumers developsinto the majority of the tobacco market (Hilts 77). It is moreover advantageous forcompanies to target youths since young smokers have greater brand loyalty – avery high likelihood of staying with their first regular brand of cigarettes for years oreven for life (76). Tobacco companies have learned exactly how to market their product tochildren through extensive research and psychological study of youths; the mostintense studies did not start until after the scares of 1954. In the late 1950s, PhilipMorris found through comprehensive research that young males started smokingbecause, to them, it represented an independence from their parents. What PM’sadvertising agency came up with were commercials that would turn rookie smokerson to Marlboro .
. . the right image to capture the youth market’s fancy . . .
a perfectsymbol of independence and individualistic rebellion (qtd. in Hilts 67). With this inmind, they decided that images of a lone, rugged cowboy would catch the attentionof male children. The Marlboro Man soon began to capture the largest percentage ofstarters and clearly put Philip Morris at the top of the tobacco industry; PM tried toduplicate the success of Marlboros by creating Virginia Slims for young girls in thelate 1960s (66-69).
There is no doubt that peer group influence is the single most importantfactor in the decision by the adolescent to smoke . . . The adolescent seeks to displayhis new urge for independence with a symbol, and cigarettes are such a symbolsince they are associated with adulthood and at the same time the adults seek todeny them to the young.
(qtd. in Hilts 83)R. J. Reynolds eventually did respond to the youth market in 1988 withCamel cigarettes.
RJR’s market basically remained the same since 1913, before theymodified their advertising approach 75 years later (Hilts 70). Camels, which hadpreviously been pitched to smokers over 50 years old, were suddenly targetedtowards those under 20 years old with the introduction of the cartoon Joe Camel inFebruary, 1988 (79-80). RJR established a program to sell their cigarettes to what isreferred to in their documents as YAS, or young adult smokers. (They werereferred to in the documents as young adults only for legal purposes; orally, it wasagreed that the targeted groups were much younger. ) The program carefullygoverns, among other things, the placement of ads and propaganda. They ensure thatstores within 1,000 feet of schools carry more promotions than other stores; thatpromotions are closest to candy counters more often than anywhere else; thatdisplays are more often set at a height of three feet or lower; and that stores inneighborhoods with a large number of children under 17 receive a greater numberof signs promoting their cigarettes (92-93).
The effectiveness of the tobacco industry’s psychologically designedpromotions has been remarkable. Coinciding with the 1967 ad campaigns whichtargeted young girls, there was a sudden rise in teenage, female smokers: 110percent in 12-year-olds, 55 percent in 13-year-olds, 70 percent 14-year-olds, 75percent in 15-year-olds, 55 percent in 16-year-olds, and 35 percent in 17-year olds(Hilts 69). Within three years after Camels were introduced to children in 1988, thebrand jumped from 3 percent to more than 13 percent of the cigarette market; thejump was even larger among the youngest groups (70). An R. J. Reynolds executivewas asked exactly who the young people are that are being targeted, junior highschool kids, or even younger? His reply made RJR’s objective clear: They got lips?We Want ’em.
If this is truly who the tobacco industry is aiming for, theirachievements are considerable. More than 100,000 American children ages 12 andunder are habitual smokers (Mixon 3). Every day, 3,000 to 5,000 American kidslight a cigarette for the first time. Children spend a billion dollars a year oncigarettes.
Tobacco companies must make sure that they recruit enough newsmokers every day, taking into account that they loose one of their life-longcustomers to disease every 13 seconds (Starr and Taggart 706). Tobacco products have claimed the lives of more people than those whodied in World War Two (Jaffa 85). The sum of its victims exceeds the number ofdeaths resulting from alcohol abuse, illegal drug abuse, AIDS, traffic accidents,homicides, and suicides combined (Glantz xvii). There are thousands of documentsfrom tobacco companies which reveal that the industry has been remarkablysuccessful in protecting its ability to market an addictive product that not only kills itscustomers by the millions, but also shrinks the economy by 22 billion dollarsannually (Starr and Taggart 706). The industry has uniquely been able to market itslethal products by tactfully instilling completely irrational desires in the vulnerableminds of children.
Although tobacco products have been proven to be seriouslyhazardous to health, some 50 million Americans continue to smoke regularly; this isnot necessarily a matter of personal choice as the companies claim. Rather, afterseducing young people’s minds (by explaining smoking as glamorous rather thandeadly), the whole business trusts that these youths will continue to smoke becausethey will develop addictions to the nicotine in tobacco. Along with some help fromthe government, the industry fights regulation of their product through the skilledlegal, political, and public relations tactics that helped them create an imaginarycontroversy on the effects of smoking. This situation, however, is slowly changing. The deception of the tobacco industry has recently become better publicized throughthe revelation of internal documents which previously have been suppressed by thecompanies. (Among these documents, those of Brown ; Willamson and have beengreatly exposed.
) Every day, organizations such as the FDA (Food and DrugAdministration) are taking steps to control the virtually unregulated sale of cigarettesand other tobacco products. Until something effective is done, however, the bestway to fight the merchants of death is to influence their prey – the impressionableminds of children – before they do.Social Issues