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Study: Tobacco companies still market cigarettes to teens

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- A study claiming three major tobacco companies continue to pour cigarette advertising into magazines read by teenagers is meeting with criticism from both tobacco companies and the magazines.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, published in its issue dated Thursday, concluded that a 1998 agreement in which tobacco companies said they would not directly or indirectly target their advertising at youths under the age of 18 "appears to have had little effect on cigarette advertising in magazines."

The study, supported and funded by the California attorney general's office, determined certain cigarette brands and magazines to be youth-oriented. Based on that determination, the study concluded that the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which prohibits direct or indirect advertising targeting people under the age of 18, has been ineffective.

Dr. Michael Siegel, who co-authored the study, said the report's criteria for calling a magazine youth-oriented was based on a policy that Philip Morris U.S.A. Tobacco Co. voluntarily agreed to adopt in June 2000.

Philip Morris agreement

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Philip Morris agreed not to advertise in periodicals that had a readership of at least 15 percent or at least 2 million readers between the ages of 12 and 17 years -- including magazines such as People, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Vogue, Skiing, Sports Illustrated and Popular Science.

"We knew that Philip Morris had announced this policy ... and we wanted to assess how effective that policy is likely to be," Siegel told CNN. "What we found is although it sounds like a good policy, it is unlikely to reduce kids' exposure to tobacco advertising."

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. refused to adopt the policy set by Philip Morris, Co. in 2000, noting that it already had a strict policy, advertising only in magazines which have a minimum 75 percent of readers age 18 or older.

"The general intent of the MSA was to limit exposure and we've complied by pulling our ads off taxis, T-shirts, buses and billboards," said Jan Smith, spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. "But we have the right to communicate with adults about our product in magazines that are read by a majority of adults."

The journal's study analyzed the amount of money Philip Morris Co., R.J. Reynolds Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. spend on advertising in magazines, including the youth-oriented magazines as defined by Philip Morris Co.'s policy, adopted in 2000. It looked at how much of the spending was on "youth" brands of cigarettes -- those brands smoked by more than 5 percent of smokers in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades in 1998. It identified those brands as Camel, Marlboro and Newport.

It found that the overall spending on advertising for youth brands of cigarettes in youth-oriented magazines increased from $58.5 million in 1998 to $67.4 million in 1999, then slipped back to $59.6 million in 2000.

Advertising spending fluctuates

Advertising of adult cigarette brands in youth-oriented magazines rose from $82.3 million in 1998 to $108.6 million in 1999, then dropped to $67.6 million in 2000.

Spending on advertising of adult brands in adult-oriented magazines went from $49.4 million in 1998 to $85.9 million in 1999 and $58 million in 2000.

For youth brands in adult-oriented magazines, the numbers held fairly steady, around $30 million each year. In a prepared response to the study, Philip Morris Co. noted that it "took a number of steps to ensure its actions were consistent with its policy to advertise only in adult-focused publications."

Siegel, who has researched tobacco for the past 10 years, pointed out that even though Philip Morris does not advertise in magazines solely marketed to kids under the age of 18, the company is still getting across to teens.

"The youth readership of the adult magazines that Philip Morris is still able to advertise in is so high that the companies are able to achieve just about the same level of advertising as they are now," Siegel said.

A spokesman for Time Inc., which owns three of the magazines listed as "youth-oriented" by the journal's study, defended his company's placement of tobacco advertisements in People, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated.

"This story should not be focused on magazines," Peter Costiglio said. "The majority of our readers are adults, the magazines are written for adults who are mature enough to make decisions on legal products that are advertised in our pages."

Time Inc. is owned by AOL-Time Warner, which also owns CNN.)

'Incorrect characterization'

The spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Co. said she believed that calling certain brands youth-oriented was an "incorrect characterization."

"Whatever brands youths smoke will include the leading brands on the market," Jan Smith said.

A spokesman for Lorillard Tobacco said he hoped the study would lead to some clarifications on the Master Settlement Agreement.

"I think we need a more comprehensive and ... stronger agreement of what we consider to be a standard that we can all agree to," said Steve Watson.

• TeenHealth

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