Cigarette Ads Still Trying to Get Teens to Smoke

| by Toni Brayer MD

They must be running out of things to study when Pediatrics publishes a study that shows tobacco ads have an impact on getting teens to smoke. 

It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that cigarette manufacturers would not be spending billions of dollars on advertising if it weren't effective in luring new business.  But Dr. James Sargent of Dartmouth Medical School along with other German researchers said, "This study shows that it is the specific images from tobacco ads that predict smoking and not a character trait."  He goes on to point out that after viewing an ad, teens develop favorable thoughts about smoking  and then, when given an opportunity, they try it.

Tobacco companies spend about $30 million a day on advertising in the United States alone. 

That is an incredible amount, especially since tobacco advertising is banned on American television.  But have you noticed how many actors on TV and in movies smoke?  I notice they smoke, even when it has nothing to do with the script.  Did Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City really need smokes to look appealing?

Prior studies have shown that teenage girls who have never smoked are far more likely to start smoking if their favorite move star smokes in movies.  Who are these influential smokers?  Try Sandra Bullock (In Love and War, The Net, Speed, A Time to Kill).  Demi Moore (The Juror, Now and Then) Winona Ryder (How to Make an American Quilt, Reality Bites) and Keira Knightley (Atonement, Domino, the Jacket).  Did Will Ferrell need to smoke for Anchorman, Bewitched and Starsky & Hutch?

  DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts and John Travolta had numerous movies where they smoked.  Clive Owen, Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti and Jaimie Foxx all played various smoking roles and it was not necessary.   Even Spider Man had smokers for no apparent reason and the list goes on and on.  Start noticing how the script doesn't really need the character to be a smoker.

Movies and TV are likely where much of that $30 million ad budget is going.  And, as this and prior studies show, that money is well spent.  It works.