Body bag ads knock Marlboro Man off his horse
CONCORD -- For its latest television ads, an anti-tobacco group has invested in a supply of body bags to show that smoking kills.
One ad targets the Marlboro Man, the cowboy who marketed and glamorized Marlboro cigarettes. Young people sling body bags over horses to spoof on the Marlboro ads. Another commercial features people stacking body bags outside a tobacco companyâ€™s headquarters.
"You know what, weâ€™re going to leave this here so you can see what 1,200 people actually look like," a guy says in one ad, referring to the number of Americans who die each day because of smoking
If youâ€™ve missed these grim commercials, donâ€™t worry, youâ€™ll see many similar ads from the American Legacy Foundation.
The "Truth" ad campaign is a $150 million media blitz targeting 12- to 17-year-olds, said Bill Furmanski, director of communications for the American Legacy Foundation. The foundation was created as part of the 1998 tobacco settlement agreement with 46 states to promote prevention and smoking cessation.
"The ads are edgy. Theyâ€™re meant to be edgy," said Furmanski.
He said the goal is to get children involved and informed, not necessarily to say no, because some teens will do the opposite of what they are told.
Though evaluations are still being completed, the "Truth" ads message have been effective, according to Donald Shumway, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services.
"The kids like them. Itâ€™s the anti-corporate message thatâ€™s appealing," he said.
Anti-tobacco groups like the American Legacy Foundation and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are starting to fight the tobacco wars in television, newspaper, and billboard advertising. The tobacco companies that once dominated these advertising mediums are now heavily restricted in what they can do because of the $200 billion tobacco settlement agreement with the states.
As part of that agreement, tobacco companies have launched a series of national television ads to explain the terms of the pact and to explain how they will market their products. Under the settlement agreement, tobacco companies cannot use billboards, transit ads, cartoon characters, or cigarette-branded merchandise. They are forbidden to market to youth or pay to place their products in movies or television shows.
"While most people are aware that the settlement provides large cash payments to the states, they are unaware of the fundamental changes that have occurred in the way tobacco is marketed in this country as a result of this agreement," said Ellen Merlo, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Philip Morris USA, the nationâ€™s largest tobacco company.
With the support of anti-tobacco groups, even local communities are working to hold tobacco companies more accountable for their marketing and products.
New Hampshire received a $75,000 grant from the American Legacy Foundation to fund grassroots youth movements. Doverâ€™s Youth to Youth program is one such movement where students work to inform their peers as well as the general public about the dangers of smoking.
Dover Police Capt. Dana Mitchell, a coordinator of Youth to Youth, said the Legacy funds will help fund the creation of a Web site, forums to explain youth advocacy, and a summit to launch the youth movement next summer.
Smoking rates among teens remains high, but Mitchell sees a slight reduction.
A recent Teen Assessment Project found that 25 percent of students in Dover said they had smoked in the last 30 days, compared to the stateâ€™s average of 40 percent. The national average was 35 percent. "Thereâ€™s a lot more awareness of tobacco in the past five years," Mitchell said. He attributes the awareness to community participation, schools, and groups like Youth to Youth. Lawsuits against the tobacco industry and ads like the American Legacy Foundationâ€™s also make a difference, he said.