04 September 2000

According to the Department of Health and Human Services' annual survey on drug abuse, smoking and alcohol, nearly 75% of Afro-American smokers in the 12-17 age group choose Lorillard’s Newport brand, whereas the brand of choice among their white and Hispanic counterparts is Marlboro, owned by America's largest tobacco company, Philip Morris.

This shows that children who smoke continue to be influenced by advertising and are more likely to choose the most heavily promoted brands, accuses Danny McGoldrick, research director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "These are clearly targeted marketing campaigns on behalf of these tobacco companies,” he said. “Menthol cigarettes such as Newport are targeted to African-Americans, for example.... this is consistent with other data we have seen."

Although tobacco manufacturers are forbidden to target youths, McGoldrick argues: “We know that 90% of people smoke before they are 19 years-old. That's where new smokers are. It's hard to imagine the tobacco companies will have abandoned this market and the evidence is that they have not."

Presenting the study’s results to a news conference, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala followed through on McGoldrick’s attack: "Despite the declining numbers, all of us - parents, teachers and the government, media - still need to do more to help our young people see through the tobacco companies' smokescreen of deceit," she said.

Protested Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick: "We are marketing our products in a very responsible way," adding that his company is sponsoring school programmes in a bid to reduce teen smoking. "We are trying to make it even harder for youths to buy cigarettes," he said, at the same time urging that states should spend significant amounts of tobacco settlement funds on youth-oriented anti-smoking programs.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)