Study ties ads to teen smoking
Researchers call for marketing restrictions

By Richard Craver
Winston Salem Journal

May 8, 2007

A study released by two universities yesterday makes a direct connection between retail cigarette marketing and teen smoking.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, was conducted by Bridging the Gap, a policy-research program based at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Michigan.

It found that “pricing strategies contribute to increases all along the smoking continuum, from initiation and experimentation to regular smoking, and that cigarette promotions increase the likelihood that youth will move from experimentation to regular smoking.”

“Our study shows that the marketing of cigarettes in places where teens shop clearly increases their cigarette use,” says Sandy Slater, the study’s lead author. “Restricting these marketing practices would reduce youth smoking.”

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA said they could not specifically comment until they had more time to study the report.

“Regardless of what signage a retail store might have, it’s illegal in every state to sell tobacco products to minors,” said David Howard, a Reynolds spokesman. “Since it’s illegal to sell to them, that means they are not eligible for discounts or promotional items.”

The study is the latest report targeting the influence of tobacco marketing at a time when Congress is considering whether to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory oversight of the industry. Reynolds opposes the proposed law, and Philip Morris supports it. Analysts said that Philip Morris, the largest U.S. tobacco manufacturer, backs FDA oversight because it likely would preserve the status quo at the retail level.

Last week, five U.S. senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting an investigation into whether the packaging of the Camel No. 9 cigarettes — introduced in February by Reynolds — is targeting teenage girls. Anti-smoking groups have made similar claims.

Reynolds said that Camel No. 9 is not only the first Camel style focused on adult female smokers. It also is the first among the three dominant brands — Camel, Marlboro and Newport — favored by male smokers, according to analysts.

The Bridging the Gap study conducted a national survey of 26,301 students in grades eight, 10 and 12 from 1999 to 2003. According to the study, there would be an 11.2 percent decrease in teenagers experimenting with smoking if stores with moderate levels of cigarette marketing were to remove the ads. It also found there would be an 11 percent increase in youths experimenting with smoking if stores advertised cigarettes to the fullest amount possible.

The study found that for every dollar increase in a pack of cigarettes, the odds of a teenager “moving to the next level of smoking” would decrease by 24 percent.

Howard said that the price of a pack of cigarettes has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

On April 26, the FTC said that promotional spending of the top five U.S. cigarette-makers dropped to $13.1 billion in 2005 from $15.1 billion in 2003.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which supports FDA regulation of tobacco, said that 90 percent of 2005 spending on cigarette marketing went to point-of-sale advertising, cigarette price promotions, multipack discounts and gifts with purchases.