Countering tobacco advertising

The number of smokers in the USA has dropped from 42 percent of the population in 1965 to 25 percent in 1977. In any other industry this would be considered a cause for serious concern. The smoking industry has invested millions of dollars in researching its target consumers, understanding their age grouping, their social status, income, expectations. In recent years cigarettes have appeared as fashion accessories, targeted at young people.
At a 1997 meeting of EU Health Ministers discussing a ban on all public images and promotion of tobacco products, opponents, principally Netherlands and Germany, still had a blocking minority. A law banning cigarette advertising in Belgium and passed by the Lower House early in 1997, has been stalled in the Senate after intense lobbying by cigarette manufacturers.

The 1998 general agreement between US tobacco manufacturers and US state authorities bans payments to promote tobacco products in movies, television shows, theater productions or live performances, videos and video games. This is one of a number of measures aimed to change the "smoking culture" often portrayed in the media.

1. Advertising and sponsorship are important factors in persuading teenagers to smoke.

2. With cigarettes, in marketing terms, the brand's identity is most crucial in the pack design. The pack design signals which club the user belongs to. Changing pack design for cigarettes so they appeared plain wrapped, or in forms more similar to medical products, would go a long way to countering tobacco advertising.

Counter Claim:
(1) Thousands of jobs would be lost if cigarette advertising were banned.

(2) There is remarkably little evidence that advertising plays an important role in getting people to smoke, as opposed to getting them to smoke a particular brand. The 1989 US surgeon general's report conceded that "there is no scientifically rigorous study available to the public that provides a definitive answer to the basic question of whether advertising and promotion increase the level of tobacco consumption. Given the complexity of the issue, none is likely to be forthcoming in the forseeable future." A 1994 US report, which focused on underage smoking, also acknowledged the "lack of definitive literature." None of the widely publicized studies that have appeared in recent years, including the much-hyped research on Joe Camel, actually measured the impact of advertising on a teenager's propensity to smoke.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies