Children and Tobacco: The Facts

Children and Tobacco Advertising

While cigarette companies claim that they do not intend to market to children, their intentions are irrelevant if advertising affects what children know. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company is as effective as the Disney Channel in reaching 6-year-old children. Given this fact and the known health consequences of smoking, cigarette advertising may be an important health risk for children."
-- Fischer, et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, December 11, 1991. March 1995.


Teenagers respond to tobacco advertising
The Surgeon General has concluded that tobacco advertising and promotion do appear to stimulate cigarette consumption.1 About 85 percent of adolescent smokers prefer either Marlboro, Newport, or Camel, the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands.2

After the Joe Camel campaign was introduced, Camel's market share among underage smokers jumped from 0.5 percent to 32.8 percent in three years.3

Tobacco advertisements are appealing to kids
Tobacco advertising emphasizes themes (sexual attraction, social acceptance, thinness, and independence) which appeal to youth.4

Six year olds are familiar enough with cigarette advertising that they match the 'Old Joe' Camel character with cigarettes as often as they pair Mickey Mouse with the Disney Channel.5 When asked what cigarette brand was most frequently advertised, only 13.7 percent of adults named Camel, compared to 28.5 percent of adolescents (12 to 17 years old). Recognition of the Joe Camel campaign was highest among 12 and 13 year olds.6

Children are frequently exposed to tobacco advertising
Cigarette advertising expenditures for promotional items such as hats, t-shirts, and key chains quadrupled, from $184 million to $756 million, between 1991 and 1993. These items bear no health warnings and are easily obtained by kids.7

Thirty percent of kids (12 to 17 years old), both smokers and nonsmokers, own at least one tobacco promotional item.8

While overall cigarette advertising in magazines has declined sharply, the number of ads per issue in magazines with substantial youth readership has remained constant.9

The public supports regulation designed to prevent teenage tobacco use
According to a recent survey, adults overwhelmingly support measures which would prohibit tobacco advertising which appeals to children. Seventy-one percent favor extending regulation of nicotine products, such as patches and gum, to cigarettes; 73 percent believe tobacco ads without pictures and cartoons would make smoking less appealing to kids; 74 percent think cigarette pack coupons for promotional items which appeal to youth should be eliminated.10 Sixty-one percent of adults believe that the tobacco industry encourages teenagers to smoke.11

According to a March 1996 poll, 88 percent of Americans think their member of Congress should support the Food and Drug Administration's proposal to stop the sale and marketing of cigarettes to children; 47 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a local member of Congress who was accepting campaign contributions from the tobacco companies; and 81 percent of Americans do not trust tobacco companies to promote voluntary restrictions on the sale and marketing of their products to children. (Global Strategy Group, for the American Heart Association, March 19, 1996.)


1. "Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress," A Report of the Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services, 1989.

2. "Comparison of Cigarette Brand Preference of Adult and Teenage Smokers," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control, 1992.

3. "RJR Nabisco's Cartoon Camel Promotes Camel Cigarettes to Children," Journal of the American Medical Association, December 11, 1991.

4. "Current Trends in Cigarette Advertising and Marketing," New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 316, 1987.

5. "Brand Logo Recognition by Children Aged 3 to 6 Years," Journal of the American Medical Association, December 11, 1991.

6. "Does Tobacco Advertising Target Young People to Start Smoking?" Journal of the American Medical Association, December 11, 1991.

7. Federal Trade Commission, "1995 Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress for 1993," 1995.

8. "Teen-age Attitudes and Behaviors Concerning Tobacco," Gallup International Institute, September 1992.

9. "Minority Issues," Tobacco Use: An American Crisis, Washington, DC: American Medical Association, 1993.

10. "Youth Access to Tobacco," Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February, 1995.

11. New York Times/CBS Poll, May 1994.

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