Expert: Ads Recruit Young Smokers
MIAMI (AP) - Youth anti-smoking ads produced by tobacco companies are actually recruitment pitches for new customers, a public health expert testified Tuesday in a landmark smoking case.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a specialist on cigarette promotions, singled out the industry's ``Think, Don't Smoke'' slogan for conveying the opposite of its stated message.
The campaign seems to tell youngsters, ``if you want to be thought of as a nerd like I was, then go ahead and don't smoke,'' the Boston University professor said. ``But if you want to avoid that kind of ridicule, man, take up a cigarette and be cool.''
Siegel is testifying on behalf of 300,000 to 500,000 sick Florida smokers in a class-action lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in punitive damages against the tobacco industry.
The jury has already ruled that cigarette companies make a dangerous prodcut, and awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers representing the class.
The testimony challenges the industry's theme that it has changed its ways since the trial began in 1998 and that it should not be required to pay more than its $254 billion national settlement with the states.
Siegel derided Philip Morris' $74 million youth anti-smoking program, compared with an overall industry advertising and promotion budget of $6 billion a year.
``In reality, I don't think this company is spending a penny in a true effort to try to get youth to stop smoking,'' Siegel said. ``It's either ineffective or it's actually going to programs or to advertising that's actually going to make smoking more appealing to youth.''