Students lead anti-tobacco campaign, Ban of magazines that run ads sought
If McLean Crichton and Scott Davidson get their way, the next time a patient visits the doctor they might not be able to peruse Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, or other popular magazines while sitting in the waiting room.
School libraries wouldn't carry certain periodicals, and magazine publishing companies such as Time Inc., the publishing division of Time Warner, and Conde Nast would refuse some ads.
Don't fret, magazine fans, the duo isn't attempting to ban or censor publications based on editorial content.
What they are seeking is for doctors and schools to give up subscriptions to magazines that contain tobacco advertisements aimed at attracting youths to the product.
The 17-year-old high school students are also asking publishers to reject tobacco ads.
"A doctor would never knowingly promote smoking," said Crichton, a Hendrick Hudson High School student. "They (doctors) have a duty to promote the message that smoking is not healthy."
Crichton and Davidson, both interns in New York State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef's (D-Ossining) office, have recently begun a letter-writing campaign to doctor's offices and publishers seeking their support.
Since 1971, when a federal law barred tobacco ads from television and radio, magazines have been one of the last refuges for tobacco ads.
In 1998, a federal agreement with the tobacco industry placed further restrictions on marketing efforts, and one year later the Multi-State Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the industry barred billboard advertising.
Some tobacco manufacturers say they have already taken steps to end their association with print advertising.
Philip Morris USA Spokeswoman Jennifer Gilosh, whose company manufactures and sells Marlboro, Parliament, and Virginia Slims, among other cigarettes, said the corporation reduced its advertising budget by 94 percent between 1998 and 2003.
Since 2000, the firm has not placed any back-page magazine advertising and in 2004 decided to forgo ads in general circulation publications, Gilosh said.
Last year, according to Gilosh, company officials enacted a policy to stop advertising in newspapers and magazines, instead focusing their marketing efforts on a database filled with customers 21 years and older.
"We have worked voluntarily to limit the marketing of our products," Gilosh commented.
According to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which manufactures Kool, Camel, Dorel, Salem, and Winston cigarettes, among others, they are placing ads in magazines with a predominantly adult audience.
Before selecting a magazine, the company analyzes articles to ensure they have an adult appeal, evaluate other ads for adult appeal, and use data to ensure that the publication's readership is 85 percent over the age of 18.
"R.J. Reynolds does not and will not advertise in publications designed for youth," reads a statement on the company's website.
Publishing houses are also working to ensure youths cannot view tobacco ads.
Time Inc. spokeswoman Ali Zelenko said the company, which publishes Time and Sports Illustrated, among other periodicals, already offers tobacco companies the opportunity to remove or edit their advertisements from publications that go to public elementary, junior high, and high school libraries throughout the country.
She further stated Time Inc. does accept tobacco advertising in magazines written and edited for adult audiences.
Although tobacco manufacturers and publishers maintain they are working to reduce the number of ads, Crichton and Davidson insist they are not practicing what they are preaching.
They cited several reports that they maintain illustrate the nefarious and duplicitous nature of the tobacco industry.
A Massachusetts Department of Public Health study titled "Cigarette Advertising Expenditures Before and After Master Settlement Agreement" found spending for tobacco advertising in magazines with at least 15 percent youth readership jumped from $90.2 million pre-MSA to $119.9 million post-MSA in the first three-quarters of 1999.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports cigarette manufacturers spend $15.1 billion annually on marketing and magazine advertising and that in 2002 a California judge fined R.J. Reynolds for advertising in magazines with high youth readership, which violated that state's tobacco settlement.
Davidson said manufacturers design ads that make smoking seem cool, which he maintained aids in attracting new consumers.
"I don't understand why people would consume a product that says it will kill you on the box," said Davidson, a Croton-Harmon High School student.
As they embark on their campaign, they are fortunate to have a local political stalwart in their corner.
Galef, whose Ossining office the duo has interned in since last summer, is writing letters to medical professionals encouraging them to stop stocking their waiting rooms with tobacco ad filled publications.
"Public pressure can really work," said Galef. "We need to meet this challenge."
A former smoker herself, Galef said she thinks some people still puff away because they think it looks cool while keeping them thin and fit.
She also said the tobacco industry is not, despite what they say, serving the best interests of consumers.
"They are trying to make a profit," said Galef. "The smoking industry does not help us."
At least one doctor has agreed to support the teens.
Dr. Adina Keller, from Buffalo, said she intends to remove magazines with tobacco ads from her waiting room and will ask the other doctors in her medical group to follow suit.
"Doctors have a responsibility to promote health and wellness," said Keller.
Hendrick Hudson High School students who attended a 90-minute forum last Friday where Crichton and Davidson unveiled their plan are also supportive.
"This is a good approach to a problem that not a lot of people know about or realize is going on," said Mike Jacobson, a 17-year old senior.