Industry "Youth Smoking Prevention" Programs - I
Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco Industry
are collaborating on a sophisticated worldwide public relations campaign
to advertise the tobacco industry's support for "youth smoking
prevention" programs, while aggressively fighting measures proven
effective in reducing smoking rates.
Philip Morris boasts on its website that the company is
involved in more than 130 programs in nearly 70 countries. http://www.pmintl.com/corp_resp/youth.html
But the "youth smoking prevention" measures
that the tobacco industry supports, e.g. minimum age laws, costly education
programs, and "underage sale prohibited" signs on store fronts
and cigarette packs, are inefficient, ineffective, and difficult to
enforce. They may even promote youth smoking, presenting smoking as
an "adult" activity - a theme long successful in promoting
Some examples of tobacco industry "youth smoking
prevention" programs from around the world:
Australia. A Philip Morris school curriculum shows
a depressed young woman with the text: I'VE GOT THE POWER... Be proud
of who you are... Enjoy being yourself... Know when and how to choose
the best... Take responsibility for your own decisions... TRUST YOUR
OWN DECISIONS. The message shares uncanny similarities with the company's
"Find Your Voice" advertising campaign for Virginia Slims
cigarettes that targeted young women: My voice reveals the hidden
power within... I look temptation right in the eye and then I make
my own decision.
Bangladesh. In July 2001, British American Tobacco
launched a "Youth Smoking Prevention" campaign, consisting
of television ads, radio scripts, billboards, and stickers. The word
"no" (connected to parental authority - which many youth
want to rebel against), and an attractive image of smoke rings appears
on the left side of the billboard. On the right, a drab photo of six
young people is accompanied by the line, "We don't smoke."
The ad stands in great contrast to the flashy, sophisticated Benson
& Hedges billboards that glamorize smoking.
Turkey. Philip Morris donated $100,000
to the Faculty of Education at Bosphurus University in 2000 to run a
school project entitled "The Power is Yours." The project
was to teach students about decision making, without mentioning smoking.
The involvement of a prestigious university would have given the program
legitimacy. Turkish tobacco control advocates led a successful campaign
to halt the program.
Hypocrisy is the Name of the Game
The tobacco industry's youth education programs avoid
the very strategy that has proven most effective in reducing teen smoking
rates and in mobilizing youth tobacco control advocates: exposing the
truth about tobacco industry manipulation and deception.
Meanwhile, the tobacco industry continues to sponsor sports
and cultural events around the world that are popular with teens. Recently
in Burkino Faso, Philip Morris held a Marlboro concert at which free
cigarettes were distributed to youth.