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Ads & Child Appeal


A physician's viewpoint on cigarette advertising


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Cigarette Advertisements Directly Appeal to Our Nation's Teenagers.

Cigarette advertisements link cigarettes and the act of smoking to themes that are fundamentally appealing to our teenagers.  Those themes involve sex, rebellion from authority, the rugged male, and the independent, self-directed young woman.   Documents released by cigarette manufacturers during recent court proceedings show the tobacco industry admitting that cigarette ads not only affect brand preference, but also help recruit new smokers. 

Tobacco advertisements continue to directly associate cigarettes with sex.  Advertising campaigns such as Camel's "Pleasure to Burn" picture a sexually inviting image of a female with a Camel logo on her heel. There is the implication that a Camel cigarette is the key to developing an intimate relationship with this provocative woman.  Particularly for the adolescent male with his surging hormones all too near the surface, this advertising approach is quite effective. 

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Winston's "No Bull" campaign is the current manifestation of cigarette advertising enhancing the link of smoking with rebellion from authority and establishing one's independence.  This is a potent theme for the many of our teenagers given that the development goal of this age is to move towards becoming an independent adult.   A young lady with a cigarette in her hand in another Winston advertisement says "Yeah I got a tattoo and no you can't see it."

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The implication is that I am an independent woman and cigarettes are part of that image.

These ads continue in the tradition of the campaign themes developed in the now defunct Joe Camel advertisements.  Joe Camel, the tough rebellious dude, is visiting his "future in laws" house. The ad then advises as "Smooth Move #237" to "Ask them where the bathroom is, but don't go.  It'll keep them thinking."  Can there be any doubt that this ad was targeted to adolescent rebellion?

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Themes of rebellion are effective and Camel cigarettes during the Joe Camel campaign became very popular with young underage smokers.

In addition, the traditional advertising themes continue to be employed.   There is the rugged Marlboro male that appeals to a significant portion of our male teenagers. 

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The association of cigarette smoking with the excitement of the rodeo is manifest at the checkout counter of the convenience store.

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The association of cigarettes with car racing through the sponsorship of the Winston Racing Circuit promotes cigarettes as an integral part of this exciting activity.

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Sadly, the cigarette advertisers are in the process of recruiting smokers from the African-American community who have traditionally had a lower frequency of tobacco smoking than the Caucasians.  A Virginia Slims advertisement shows a young black woman in African dress who is exhorted to "Find Your Voice", presumably through her expression of independence by smoking.

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The advertisements links a young woman's independence and cultural pride to cigarette smoking.

Unfortunately, cigarette advertisers do a superbly effective job of linking tobacco with the themes that appeal to our developing teenagers: sex, rebellion from authority, establishing independence, cultural pride, and rugged virile activities.  Antismoking ads may help somewhat in affecting attitudes.  However, they tend to be overwhelmed fighting a superbly crafted advertising message from the tobacco industry that enhances the desirability and favorable associations of cigarette smoking. 

Until cigarette advertising is banned entirely or severely limited, the tobacco industry will continue to have the more effective general campaign in winning the heart and bodies of our nation's youth.  

And what is at stake?   The teenager that starts smoking today is saddled with a life- long addiction that has negative health consequences throughout his life.  Can anyone of us be sure that our teenagers, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, or friend's children won't be the teenagers who are currently becoming addicted to tobacco?




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