The case for banning tobacco advertising rests on the inescapable fact that tobacco is the major preventable cause of death and disease in Australia today. If tobacco were not harmful to health, there would be no argument for preventing advertising and promotion of tobacco products.
The introduction of a complete ban on all forms of tobacco promotion is recognised as a key component of a comprehensive smoking control program. However it cannot be expected to effect a change in smoking behaviour if not supported by other smoking control measures, as has occurred in Canada and New Zealand, for example (discussed below). This Section discusses the reasons why a complete ban is justified.
Any discussion about advertising bans brings up the question about whether advertising affects consumption. The commonsense answer is that of course it does; why else would the tobacco industry bother spending so much money on it if it did not? The tobacco manufacturers typically respond that their advertising is not intended to encourage uptake of smoking, but simply to encourage brand swapping -- or brand loyalty -- among the existing population of smokers(33) (see also Section 15.14 below). While there is no doubt that this is one of the functions of tobacco advertising, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the broadly appealing images of tobacco advertising do not make the product interesting to non-users and therefore encourage them to use it.(128)
The US Surgeon General has noted seven ways in which tobacco advertising and promotion could increase tobacco consumption.(124) In summary, these are:
ð Advertising and promotion could encourage children or young adults to experiment with tobacco products and initiate regular use.
ð Advertising and promotion could increase tobacco users' daily consumption.
ð Advertising and promotion could reduce current tobacco users' motivation to quit.
ð Advertising and promotion could encourage former smokers to resume smoking.
ð Media dependence on advertising revenues from the tobacco companies may discourage full and open discussion of the hazards of tobacco use.
ð Financial independence of organisations receiving tobacco company sponsorship may mute political opposition to measures designed to control advertising and promotion.
ð The ubiquity and familiarity of tobacco advertising and promotion may create an environment in which tobacco use is seen as not only acceptable but likely to be without hazard.
Note: The Tobacco Institute of Australia(125) and its associated allies(126) have selectively quoted from the US Surgeon General's Reports in a way that suggests that the Reports are favourable to the tobacco industry view on advertising. This is not the case, and interested readers should obtain the response published by C Everett Koop MD, former Surgeon General.(127)
Measuring the effects of advertising is a complex task. Given that advertising is one of a number of influences on smoking, it is difficult to separate out the effect of advertising alone.(128)
Studies which have attempted to single out the effect of advertising from other factors influencing tobacco use through an analysis of advertising expenditure compared to consumption trends are, to a greater or lesser extent, flawed by these limitations.(124,128) That said, it is interesting to note that at least three comprehensive and critical reviews of the available econometric studies have concluded that advertising and promotion do have the effect of increasing total consumption.(129,130,131)
Other research has attempted to take into account a variety of factors known to impact on smoking behaviour. Tobacco promotion has been banned in Norway since 1975, as part of a comprehensive program to reduce smoking. Tobacco taxes were increased as a component of health policy, but since the increases did not keep in line with salary increases, cigarettes actually became more affordable. Nonetheless, between 1975-1985 tobacco consumption per adult declined by 9%. Prevalence of smoking among adult males declined from 51% in 1973 to 39% in 1986, and among children aged under 16, from over 40% in 1973 to under 30% in 1986. Prevalence among adult females remained stable over the same time period.(129)
Canada also has a comprehensive set of legislation concerning tobacco products, covering advertising bans, prominent health warnings, taxation, and disclosure by the tobacco companies of additives. In the two years following the introduction of the legislation in 1989, tobacco consumption (per adult) has fallen by 13.8%.(132) In the first six months following the introduction of an advertising ban in New Zealand, supermarket sales of tobacco fell by over 7% compared to the same period in the previous year, and customs and excise data showed a reduction of 17% in the amount of tobacco released into the market place, compared to the immediate six months preceding the ban. Adult smoking prevalence dropped from 28% to 25% in the first half of 1990.(132)
Research comparing variables of tobacco advertising restrictions, price of cigarettes, personal income and tobacco consumption in OECD countries has shown that advertising restrictions and higher real retail prices are associated with lowering tobacco consumption.(133) A report by the British Department of Health reviewed a broad body of published studies on the effects of tobacco advertising and concluded that 'The preponderance of positive results [showing an increase in consumption in response to advertising] points to the conclusion that advertising does have a positive effect on consumption'.(131)
The tobacco industry denies that it targets children through its advertising, and from time to time engages in publicity campaigns which it claims are intended to discourage juvenile experimentation with tobacco. The Australian industry has attempted on at least two occasions to distribute material to school students and teachers.(134,135) The content, and hence motivation of these campaigns, has been criticised by health workers.(134,135,136,137)
Measuring the impact of advertising on children's consumption patterns is not without its difficulties. For example, it would be unethical and impossible to devise a trial exposing one group of children to advertising while protecting another group, thereby setting up an experimental model(138) (although it has been observed the tobacco industry could easily do this by voluntarily removing tobacco advertising on a regional basis, allowing for comparisons(139)). Studies are limited to probing children's attitudes to and recognition and recall of advertising, and their brand selection. Findings from studies which have investigated these issues are discussed below.
Australian schoolchildren are well aware of tobacco advertising.(140,141,142,143) In a 1980 study undertaken in Western Australia, children were asked to nominate the first cigarette brand which came into their mind. Four brands (which also happened to be among the five top-selling and most heavily advertised brands in Australia) accounted for 87% of responses to this question. Those same four brands were then nominated by the children as the most popular cigarettes smoked by children. Asked 'why do you think these are the most popular?', nine out of ten children answered 'because they are the most advertised'.(142)
A study undertaken in Sydney in the same year showed that the same four brands (Winfield, Benson & Hedges, Alpine and Marlboro) were far and away the most popular brands smoked by children. Interestingly, in another survey at around the same time, Sydney adults demonstrated that they had brand preferences more evenly spread across the spectrum of the 130 or so brands on the market at the time,(144) suggesting that advertising has a greater effect on young people than adults. Subsequent research from the United Kingdom(145) and the United States(146,147) has reached the same conclusion.
During the 1980s, advertisements for the cigarette brands Peter Jackson and Alpine were of particular concern to health workers. Both brands featured very attractive and fashionable models in eye-catching settings, with themes of fun and romance. The appeal of these advertisements to children became evident in their consumption patterns. A report on a survey undertaken among New South Wales secondary schoolchildren in 1986 commented that:
The advertising efforts on the part of Peter Jackson are reflected in its rise from 1% of the market in 1983 to 27% in 1986 ... Alpine nearly doubled its share from 4.7% in 1983 to 8.5% in 1986.(148)Research by the Western Australian Department of Health showed that Peter Jackson and Alpine advertisements commonly conveyed the messages to young people that 'smoking makes you attractive, popular and sexy', and that 'smoking is fun and makes you happy'.(149) In other findings from Western Australia, children demonstrated not only that they recognised cigarette advertisements with a high degree of accuracy, but that they also preferred cigarette advertisements over any others.(139) It has been proposed by Shean that for some children, cigarette advertisements provide an ideal image of adult life (as opposed to the actual mundane nature of adulthood they observe in the lives of, for example, their parents). Children with this 'discrepant' view of adulthood are more likely to move from experimental to committed smoking.(150)
American researchers have found that the use of cartoon character 'Joe Camel' in advertising has increased the popularity of the Camel brand from around half a percent to nearly 33% among underage smokers. Conceived as a composite character apparently based on fictional smooth superspy James Bond, and a popular character in the US TV show 'Miami Vice', advertisements featuring the phallic-nosed(151) Joe Camel are more recognised and more appealing to children than to adults.(152) Joe has even achieved high awareness among very young children: a study of recognition of logos has shown that around 30% of three-year-old children correctly associated Joe the Camel with cigarette products, awareness increasing with age to over 90% of six-year-olds. This age group was as familiar with the smoking Camel character as with the Mickey Mouse logo.(153) The then US Surgeon General, Dr Antonia Novello, and the American Medical Association demanded that RJ Reynolds desist from using the cartoon imagery. Although RJ Reynolds has admitted that Joe is meant to appeal to younger smokers, it has denied that there is a connection between advertising and consumption.(154) In 1989 an advertising trade journal rated the Joe Camel 'Smooth Character' campaign as the second most popular print campaign (among all products) in the United States.(76)
Evidently not wanting to be left out, the American manufacturers of Kool, Brown & Williamson, have market tested a cartoon penguin character to support their brand, the goal being '... to strengthen the appeal of the brand, for young smokers as well as those who've been loyal to the classic Kool taste over the years. '(155) According to one critic, Willy the penguin has 'the biceps of Hulk Hogan, a Vanilla Ice hairdo, Spike Lee high top sneakers, and a Bart Simpson attitude', although the tobacco company denies that its cartoon character influences children.(156)
(See Chapter 14, Section 10 for further information about brand preference among children).
Children's views of tobacco advertising shape their pattern of future uptake.(157) A major study in New South Wales(140) in 1983 showed that children who approved of cigarette advertising were twice as likely to take up smoking as those who disapproved of the advertising, and that children who disapproved of cigarette advertising were more likely to give up smoking than those who approved of it. Generally, those who held favourable attitudes to smoking and cigarette advertising were at greater risk of adopting or maintaining smoking behaviour than those whose attitudes were more disapproving. This report went on to recommend that tobacco advertising be banned.
Similar research from Western Australian found that compared to other influencing factors on uptake of smoking, children's perceived responses to cigarette advertising showed the strongest and most consistent evidence of an uptake effect among children who were initially non-smokers. The association become stronger over time.(141)
As noted above, children who approve of cigarette advertising or think it likely to influence their decision to smoke, are more likely to become smokers.(140,141) It is also a consistent finding that children who smoke are more aware of cigarette advertisements than children who do not smoke.(60,158,159,160,161) For example, Scottish research has suggested that children who smoke are better able to recall, recognise and identify cigarette advertisements, and are more appreciative of them than non-smoking children. This finding was independent of the other known influences on under-age smoking. The authors also found that under-age smokers tend to show heightened preferences for heavily advertised cigarette brands most preferred by adults,(160,161) and appeared to gain some kind of pleasure and reassurance out of the advertisements.(161) Follow-up research on these same children one year later confirmed a reinforcing effect of advertising.(158)
There is clear evidence that sponsorship has a direct effect on children's smoking patterns (see Section 15.5 above for discussion).
There is general agreement that peer influences affect in some measure a child's decision to smoke, which begs the question of what affects peer influences. The research findings outlined above make it clear that children are not only aware of tobacco advertising, but like it. That aside, the tobacco industry is happy to give peer group pressure a helping hand, as a West German RJ Reynolds executive, describing her company's inroads into East Germany, has noted:
Since Camel has been so successful among younger smokers, we distribute 'yellow-blue' materials in places where young people gather ... To a restaurant or a disco in which the people are over 18 years old, we give ashtrays and signage and cafe umbrellas. As the leaders of our target groups smoke our products while they socialise in these meeting places, then others naturally want to buy the leaders' brands.(162)
It is not surprising that advertisements for an 'adult' product like cigarettes should appeal to children, especially given the recurrent themes of tobacco advertising -- glamour, independence, social success. Children and teenagers eagerly anticipate maturity, and are quick to adopt the trappings of adulthood.
Market research conducted for an advertising agency retained by a major American tobacco company, and subpoenaed by the US Federal Trade Commission for a major review of tobacco advertising, confirmed that 'young starters' are within the sights of tobacco companies, and that one method of appeal is the temptation of forbidden fruit.(117)
The research stated that:
For the young smoker, the cigarette is not yet an integral part of life, of day-to-day life, in spite of the fact that they try to project the image of a regular run-of-the-mill smoker. For them, a cigarette, and the whole smoking process, is part of the illicit pleasure category ... In the young smoker's mind a cigarette falls into the same category with wine, beer, shaving, wearing a bra (or purposely not wearing one), declaration of independence and striving for self-identity. For the young starter, a cigarette is associated with introduction to sex life, with courtship, with smoking 'pot' and keeping late studying hours.The market research company then suggested how young people could be attracted to the brand in question:
ð Present the cigarette as one of a few initiations into the adult world.
ð Present the cigarette as part of the illicit pleasure category of products and activities.
ð In your ads create a situation taken from the day-to-day life of the young smoker but in an elegant manner have this situation touch on the basic symbols of the growing up, maturity process.
ð To the best of your ability (considering some legal constraints) relate the cigarette to 'pot', wine, beer, sex etc.
ð Don't communicate health or health-related points.
Refer to Chapter 10 for further discussion about factors in the uptake of smoking by children.
As described elsewhere (especially in Chapter 1), since the end of the Second World War the percentage of adult male smokers has nearly halved, while the percentage of adult female smokers has shown little variation. Therefore it is not surprising that the targeting of women, and particularly young women (who will be customers for longer), increased in prominence in tobacco advertising. There is no secrecy in this: the fact that the female market has grown in importance for the tobacco manufacturers has been acknowledged by advertisers and health educators alike.(163,164)
Of course women have been recognised as a potential market for many decades, encouraged by advertising featuring perennially successful themes: style, sex appeal, social distinction and more recently professional success and emancipation. Particular brands, especially the 'designer' names, have been marketed solely as a woman's cigarette (for example Alpine, St Moritz and Vogue).
Women's magazines have been a major vehicle for cigarette advertisements. For many women, they are also a major source of leisure reading and information on lifestyle issues. Australian research has shown, however, that there is a paucity of reliable information about the health consequences of smoking in magazines, and suggests that the financial relationship between the magazines and their tobacco advertisers has been responsible for this.(120) (See also Section 15.10). It is certainly significant that the Tobacco Institute of Australia chose the Australian Women's Weekly to carry their four-page advertisement about passive smoking (see also Chapter 14, Section 20). With the print ban now in place, it will be interesting to see whether availability of information through these sources improves. See also Chapter 16, Section 6.