Are hard-hitting graphic ads depicting the ravages of smoking on health making an impact on America's youth? The answer is a resounding "Yes," according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health. The report, based on surveys of roughly 9,000 12-to-17-year-olds, showed that smoking by high-school students dropped to its lowest level in a decade.
That is no small feat, considering that for years tobacco companies have spent billions of dollars developing powerful, sophisticated youth-oriented marketing campaigns to attract a new crop of consumers--American teens. Using comprehensive countermeasures--escalating cigarette taxes, tough antismoking ordinances, smoking bans, and clever anti-tobacco campaigns--public-health officials are gaining ground in the battle against Big Tobacco.
The Post concludes its two-part interview with Dr. Steven Jay, chair of the Department of Public Health at Indiana University School of Medicine. Here we learn more about successful anti-tobacco efforts, smoking cessation, and the future of tobacco control.
Q: In the past, people in cigarette advertising represented robust health, such as the Marlboro Man. Are tobacco ads especially deceptive for the young?
A: The original Marlboro Man died of a tobacco-related disease. It is good to share this fact with young people in discussions about "truth" in advertising. Tobacco ads are effective in linking tobacco use to activities and ideas that appeal to many youth. Themes of sexual identity, health, escape, risk, excitement, antisocial behaviors, stress reduction, companionship, status, positive lifestyle, coping with loneliness, belonging, individuality, and "join the crowd" all pervade tobacco ads. Tobacco companies hire Ph.D.s and spend tens of millions of dollars to find the best strategies to invade the minds of children and teens. Documents obtained through the legal discovery process in tobacco suits have revealed extensive tobacco-company research regarding how preteens and teens might view a tobacco product. The strategy of tobacco-company marketing is to make the sale and se of tobacco products appear much greater …