WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders from the federal government and the nation’s public health community today announced the release of an authoritative National Cancer Institute report that reaches the government’s strongest conclusion to date that tobacco marketing and depictions of smoking in movies promote youth smoking. The 684-page report, The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, presents definitive conclusions that a) tobacco advertising and promotion are causally related to increased tobacco use, and b) exposure to depictions of smoking in movies is causally related to youth smoking initiation.
The report also concludes that mass media campaigns can reduce smoking, especially when combined with other tobacco control strategies. However, youth smoking prevention campaigns sponsored by the tobacco industry have been generally ineffective and may actually have increased youth smoking.
This report provides the most current and comprehensive analysis of more than 1000 scientific studies on the role of the media in encouraging and discouraging tobacco use. The report is Monograph 19 in the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Control Monograph series examining critical issues in tobacco prevention and control. Research included in the review comes from the disciplines of marketing, psychology, communications, statistics, epidemiology, and public health. The release of the report was announced today at the National Press Club.
“The media have been used to promote cigarettes and smoking through infamous advertising icons – such as the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel – and through tobacco images in Hollywood movies. The media have also been used to increase smoking cessation and reduce smoking initiation, through paid advertising campaigns and public service announcements about the dangers of smoking. This monograph presents the most current and comprehensive analysis of the scientific evidence on the impact of these forces, and other media exposures, on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors concerning tobacco use,” said Ronald M. Davis, M.D., senior scientific editor, director of the Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and Immediate Past President of the American Medical Association.
The monograph also concludes that:
• Cigarettes are one of the most heavily marketed products in the United States. Between 1940 and 2005, U.S. cigarette manufacturers spent about $250 billion (in 2006 dollars) on cigarette advertising and promotion. In 2005, the industry spent $13.5 billion (in 2006 dollars) on cigarette advertising and promotion in the U.S. -- $37 million per day on average.
• Much tobacco advertising targets the psychological needs of adolescents, such as popularity, peer acceptance and positive self-image. Advertising creates the perception that smoking will satisfy these needs.
• Even brief exposure to tobacco advertising influences adolescents’ attitudes and perceptions about smoking and smokers, and adolescents’ intentions to smoke.
• The depiction of cigarette smoking is pervasive in movies, occurring in three-quarters or more of contemporary box-office hits. Identifiable cigarette brands appear in about one-third of movies.
• When allowed by a nation’s constitution, a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion is an effective policy intervention that prevents tobacco companies from shifting marketing expenditures to permitted media.
• The tobacco industry works hard to impede tobacco control media campaigns, including attempts to prevent or reduce their funding.
Both tobacco industry and tobacco control forces are harnessing the media to influence the attitudes and behavior of the American public. In today’s media landscape, which has expanded beyond traditional channels such as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television to the Internet and interactive video gaming—the challenge is even more urgent. Although 46 million Americans have stopped smoking, 45 million Americans—about 20 percent of American adults—still smoke and nearly 4,000 adolescents smoke their first cigarette each day. Tobacco use is the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 400,000 premature deaths per year and reduces the life expectancy of smokers by an average of 14 years.
The editors of the monograph outline several steps that have been proposed to reduce use of the media in promoting tobacco use and increase its use in discouraging tobacco use, including:
• Impose a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion;
• Adequately fund mass media campaigns and protect them from tobacco industry efforts to impede them;
• Monitor tobacco industry activities including public relations and advertising expenditures in a changing media environment;
• Use research to inform tobacco control policy and program decisions;
• Place anti-tobacco advertisements before films to partially counter the impact of tobacco portrayals in movies; and
• Increase public awareness of tobacco industry attempts to shut down public health campaigns.
“The tobacco industry tried for five years to shut down our successful truth® youth smoking prevention campaign,” said Dr. Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. truth® has been credited with 22 percent of
the overall decline in youth smoking during its first two years, from 2000-2002. “Ninety percent of adult smokers began before the age of 20, so cultivating new smokers is critical to Big Tobacco’s business model, to replace the more than 400,000 adults who die from tobacco annually with new smokers. Keeping young people from starting to smoke is a critical part of the equation if we want to make major strides toward saving lives. Bold, effective counter-marketing campaigns that reduce smoking rates and change social norms are proven effective in doing just that,” she said.
“This report sends a loud and clear message to policy-makers: We need less tobacco company marketing and more anti-tobacco advertising,” said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It shows why we need strong regulation of tobacco products and their marketing to prevent tobacco companies from continuing to target our children. It also should prompt states to fully fund tobacco prevention and cessation campaigns that are proven to work. And it should spur governments worldwide to implement the international tobacco control treaty, which calls on governments to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and fund effective public education campaigns.”
Lindsay Doran, a Hollywood producer, is a vocal advocate within the entertainment industry for keeping smoking out of films seen by youth. Former president and COO of United Artists, Doran has overseen numerous Academy Award and Golden Globe winning films throughout her career including Ghost, Sense and Sensibility, Ferris Bueller's Day Off,
Stranger than Fiction and Nanny McPhee. She has worked for years to educate her Hollywood colleagues about the dangers of on-screen smoking and feels her biggest obstacle has been persuading directors, actors, producers and studio executives that there really is a causal relationship between on-screen smoking and children starting to smoke. "I'm very glad that the federal government has thrown its weight behind this important issue," she said. "Filmmakers are usually very concerned with issues of social responsibility - that's what many of our best films are about. But they need more education, especially about the very young age at which most people start to smoke, and more proof that the smoking in our movies and TV shows, if presented irresponsibly, can actually be the same as handing a 12-year-old a cigarette. Today's announcement should go a long way towards providing that proof."
"This new report provides compelling evidence that the tobacco industry continues to market to our children," said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of the American Public Health Association. "It is essential that we protect the health of our nation’s youth by halting promotion aimed at encouraging our kids to take up smoking."
For More Information
For more information or to order this monograph, go to http://www.cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/monographs/19/index.html To order a free copy, call the NCI Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) and ask for NIH Publication No. 07-6242.