New study highlights teen cigarette brands
WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Black teens overwhelmingly choose Newport cigarettes while white and Hispanic teens prefer Marlboro, according to a study on Thursday that anti-smoking groups said proved the power of brand advertising.
Tobacco companies have consistently denied targeting youths in their campaigns to win new smokers. Under an agreement reached in 1998, tobacco firms are forbidden from targeting youths.
But research director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Danny McGoldrick said the survey showed that children who smoke continued to be influenced by advertising and were more likely than adults to pick the most heavily advertised brands -- Marlboro, Newport and Camel.
The Department of Health and Human Services' annual survey on drug abuse, smoking and alcohol said among 12 to 17 year olds, nearly 75 percent of African-Americans chose Newport while more than half of young white and Hispanic smokers named Marlboro as their usual brand.
``These are clearly targeted marketing campaigns on behalf of these tobacco companies. Menthol cigarettes such as Newport are targeted to African-Americans, for example.... This is consistent with other data we have seen,'' said McGoldrick.
He said advertising billboards had come down since tobacco firms agreed not to use this method of promoting their product but that his group had noticed a rise in cigarette ads in magazines with high youth readership.
Point-of-sale advertising had also increased since billboards came down, he said.
``We know that 90 percent 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,'' he said.
Smoking overall was down in recent years, the report found, with teen cigarette use dropping to 15.7 percent in 1999 compared with 19.9 percent two years earlier.
``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,'' Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala told a news conference, referring to research on preferred brands among children.
Newport cigarettes are made by Lorillard Inc, America's oldest tobacco company, which is owned by the New York conglomerate Loews Corp.. Philip Morris, America's biggest tobacco company, makes Marlboro.
Philip Morris spokesman Brendan McCormick said his company was working hard to reduce the number of teens smoking but that a lot more needed to be done in this area.
He denied claims tobacco companies were stilling targeting youths and said Philip Morris had pulled cigarette advertisements from more than 40 magazines with high youth readership figures.
``We are marketing our products in a very responsible way,'' said McCormick, adding that his company was 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, adding that states should spend significant amounts of tobacco settlement funds on anti-smoking programmes for youths.
Lorillard could be reached to comment on the survey results.