Stubbing out Tobacco Ads: A New Battle Is Raging within the Tobacco Industry, as a Recently Launched Pressure Group Seeks to Ban Ads Seen by Youth

Article excerpt

Stubbing out tobacco ads

A new battle is raging within the tobacco industry, as a recently launched pressure group seeks to ban ads seen by youth The battle which began last week between Parents Against Tobacco (PAT) and the tobacco industry looks at first glance like a fight between David and Goliath.

The pressure group, launched primarily to restrict the marketing of tobacco to under 16s, has a budget of 300,000 [pounds] while cigarettes are a 7.6bn [pounds] a year industry with a 100m [pounds] marketing spend.

PAT seeks to ban poster and billboard advertising, sponsorship of sporting and arts events, and further limit print ads in magazines widely seen by youth. The group is even threatening to ask the non-tobacco clients of ad agencies to boycott agencies with tobacco clients.

PAT already has a proven track record. It's being run by the same team behind the highly successful lead-free petrol campaign, the Campaign for Lead-Free Air (CLEAR), and has also enlisted 150 MPs, 100 celebrities with children, 50 health organisations and the financial backing of business people like Richard Branson.

Most important PAT has a better chance of limiting cigarette advertising than existing groups such as the Government-funded Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), because it has positioned itself on undisputed moral high ground.

Society already accepts the notion that children should not smoke. The law forbids the sale of cigarettes to children and targeting advertising at them is restricted. By focusing on children, PAT sidesteps such minifields as limiting the freedom of choice for adults to smoke.

The strategy is a clever one because by limiting the advertising media children are exposed to -- billboards, posters, magazines and sponsorship -- PAT also limits the ways companies can reach adults.

Clive Turner, the director of public affairs for the tobacco industry's association the Tobacco Advisory Council, says there is no relationship between advertising and smoking by young people. …