Illustration by David Pohl
The New York Times has gleaned data from a scientific study published in the May issue of The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine about advertising’s role in motivating teens to smoke and drink.
The scientists found that point-of-sale advertising is associated with getting children to try smoking, but has little effect in encouraging habitual tobacco use. However, cigarette promotions, especially those that involve price reductions, may tempt teenagers who have already experimented with tobacco to become regular smokers.
The study’s authors estimated that if stores had no advertising, there would be a decrease of 11 percent in children who try smoking. If promotions were eliminated, there would be a decrease of 13 percent in the number who become habitual smokers.
A spokesperson from Phillip Morris naturally refutes these allegations on a number of grounds. The odd thing is, marketers desperately want to know that their money is well spent on messaging that works. And here we have scientists saying advertising does indeed work (a little too well in this case). But there can be no celebration, nor acknowledgement of this fact.
I’ll just add that a certain percentage of young people are inclined to rebel and act cool (by drinking and smoking) no matter how much, or how little, paid media they encounter. And if we take these arguments to their logical conclusion, we’d make it a crime for adults to smoke or drink in the presence of teens and pre-teens, for real people that kids actually know are much more influential than any ad campaign ever run.
[DISCLOSURE] I’ve spent a good deal of my career working for big beer and big tobacco.