Study claims US tobacco firms target youths

April 20, 2001

American tobacco companies are attempting to lure university students into becoming smokers, according to two studies.

The studies, both by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, suggest that magazine advertising and club nights sponsored by the tobacco industry are meant to entice students to smoke.

The findings "should come as no surprise," said William Corr, executive vice-president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's the children of the Marlboro man and Joe Camel who are now entering college and smoking at record rates. And the tobacco companies are still aggressively targeting them with music concerts, bar nights and ads in magazines with attractive young people."

In 1998, the American tobacco industry was prohibited from marketing cigarettes to under 18s. Since then, cigarette advertising has increased, particularly in magazines with large youth readerships.

Tobacco companies sponsor parties and give perks to bartenders, including direct cash payments, in exchange for allowing promotional materials and free samples to be handed out.

Philip Morris, which makes the Marlboro brand, sponsored 117 concerts and events that required a number of cigarette proofs-of-purchase for admission. These chits can also be cashed in for products such as audio equipment and clothing.

Harvard researchers urged universities to ban smoking in dormitories. Henry Wechsler, principal investigator of both studies, said: "These findings suggest that smoke-free dorms may help incoming college students who have not yet taken up smoking avoid tobacco addiction during college."

Tobacco company Brown & Williamson said that although the legal smoking age in most of the United States was 18, it did not advertise its products to anyone under 21.

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