Smoking War

Topics: Cigarette, Tobacco, Smoking Pages: 11 (1630 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The war on smoking has existed for decades. With the

advent of more tenacious laws prohibiting smoking in public

locations, and most recently Minnesota's historic tobacco

settlement, many actions against "Big Tobacco" have become more

successful. Anti-smoking campaigns have become more

confrontational, directly targeting tobacco companies in an

effort to expose its manipulative and illegal marketing tactics.

On the surface, last November's $206 billion settlement

agreement between the tobacco companies and 46 states looks like

a serious blow for Big Tobacco. In addition to the money, it

contains some important concessions: a ban on outdoor

advertising, limits on sports sponsorships and merchandising, no

more "product placement" in movies, and they have to close the

Tobacco Institute and other instruments. And Joe Camel - along

with all other cartoon characters - is gone for good.

Yet this did not hurt the tobacco industry's ability to

sell cigarettes. On Nov. 20, the day the attorneys general

announced the settlement, the stock of the leading tobacco

companies soared. After all, the Big Four tobacco makers will

pay only 1 percent of the damages (at most) directly; the rest

will be passed on to smokers through higher prices. Since many

states are already figuring the settlement money into their

budgets, this puts them in the odd position of depending on the

continued health of the tobacco industry for their roads,

schools, and hospitals.

Punishing the industry, in other words, doesn't

necessarily address the root of the problem - reducing demand

for cigarettes. And that won't go down until we all face the

fact that smoking is once again cool. In the 1980s, scarcely any

teenagers smoked. However, according to the Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention, teen smoking rose 73 percent from 1988

to 1996.

As long as movie stars like John Travolta and Uma Thurman

flirt gorgeously through a haze of cigarette smoke, as long as

it drifts through all the right nightclubs and bars and

hang-outs - not to mention the magazines and posters and

billboards - teenagers will find ways to smoke, no matter how

many public service announcements or laws are written to stop

them. Most of these kids know that smoking fills their lungs

with toxins like arsenic, cyanide, and formaldehyde. They'll

even recite the statistics to you: Smoking kills over 1,000

people a day in this country alone, and is far deadlier, in

terms of mortality rates, than any hard drug. And then they'll

blow their smoke into your face.

The only way to get any leverage with teenagers is to

return fire with fire, taking on the various influences that

make smoking seem attractive. We need, in other words, to find

new ways to make smoking look ridiculous.

John F. Banzhaf III had no particular animosity toward the

cigarette companies when he sat down in his Bronx home on

Thanksgiving Day 1966 to watch a football game with his father.

He was struck by a cigarette commercial that seemed to glamorize

a habit that both his parents practiced. While at Columbia

University School of Law, Banzhaf had studied the ''fairness

doctrine,'' a Federal Communications Commission policy that

required broadcasters to offer free air time to opposing views

on controversial public matters. He wondered whether the

doctrine could be applied to cigarette advertising. It had never

been applied to commercials before, but the FCC ruled in

Banzhaf's favor. By 1967 broadcasters were airing one

anti-smoking ad for every four cigarette ads, on prime-time


Bleary-eyed football fans who managed to hang on beyond

the last bowl games witnessed history 90 seconds before midnight

on New Year's Day 1971 when four Marlboro cowboys galloped into

the TV sunset. From then on,...

Bibliography: Books, 1997 S.1414
for Health Promotion." Ann. Intern Med., 1998;129:128-132
Federal Trade Commission, "1997 Federal Trade Commission Report
Tobacco Control. 1995;4(Suppl 1):S34-8
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