Posted by: audreybenenati | March 17, 2010

FDA to issue landmark rules restricting tobacco marketing and sales to kids

TO: Reporters and Editorial Writers
FR: Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
DT: March 17, 2010

RE: FDA to issue landmark rules restricting tobacco marketing and sales to kids

By March 19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will take a crucial step in exercising its new authority to regulate tobacco products when it issues rules restricting tobacco industry marketing and sales to youth. When the rules take effect on June 22, it will mark the first time the U.S. government has put its full force behind specific, nationwide regulations intended to thwart the tobacco industry’s continuing efforts to attract kids and turn them into lifelong addicts.

While the nation has significantly reduced youth tobacco use, 20 percent of high school students still smoke, and the tobacco industry continues to spend $12.8 billion a year – $35 million each day – to market its deadly and addictive products, often in ways that appeal to children. In fact, despite the limited marketing restrictions in the 1998 state tobacco settlement, total tobacco marketing expenditures have nearly doubled since then, according to the latest Federal Trade Commission reports on tobacco marketing (for 2006).

The continuing high rates of youth tobacco use and the vast sums spent on tobacco marketing are directly related. As revealed by tobacco industry documents, court rulings and scientific studies, the tobacco companies have long targeted children, and their marketing has been highly effective at getting children to smoke cigarettes and use other tobacco products.

The FDA first sought to impose restrictions on tobacco marketing and sales to kids in 1996. But the industry successfully challenged the FDA’s authority to do so and the restrictions never went into effect. Then last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the landmark law granting the FDA authority over tobacco products, including the power to implement these regulations. The new rules will:

  • Ban all remaining tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events;
  • Ban virtually all free tobacco samples and giveaways of non-tobacco items with the purchase of tobacco;
  • Prohibit the sale of cigarettes in packs of less than 20, eliminating so-called “kiddie packs” that make cigarettes more affordable and appealing to kids;
  • Restrict vending machines and self-service displays to adult-only facilities, requiring stores to place tobacco products behind the counter;
  • Prohibit tobacco sales to children under 18, require photo identification checks for over-the-counter sales to anyone appearing under 27 years of age and provide for federal enforcement and penalties against retailers who sell to minors;
  • Address the issue of outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds;
  • Restrict tobacco ads to black-and-white text only in publications with significant teen readership, at point-of-sale and outdoors (except in adult-only facilities).

A U.S. District Court judge in Kentucky recently upheld most of these marketing restrictions, rejecting tobacco industry claims that their First Amendment rights have been violated. While the judge struck down the provision limiting certain ads to black-and-white text only, the government has appealed that part of the ruling and the FDA has authority to modify this provision to accommodate judicial concerns. The agency also can modify the rule banning advertising within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds if it is necessary to answer First Amendment issues.

The law also grants the FDA authority to further restrict tobacco marketing to protect public health, consistent with the First Amendment. The government for the first time has the authority to respond to the tobacco industry’s inevitable efforts to circumvent specific marketing restrictions.

The new marketing restrictions are more comprehensive than those in the 1998 state tobacco settlement, especially with regard to store advertising and promotions that comprise the vast bulk of tobacco marketing today. The new law applies to all tobacco companies, not just those covered by the state settlement.

The need for these marketing restrictions is clear and strongly supported by internal tobacco industry documents, court rulings and scientific studies. For example:

  • Ruling in the federal government’s racketeering lawsuit against the industry, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in 2006 found, “From the 1950s to the present, different defendants, at different times and using different methods, have intentionally marketed to young people under the age of twenty-one in order to recruit ‘replacement smokers’ to ensure the economic future of the tobacco industry.”
  • In August 2008, the National Cancer Institute issued a comprehensive report on tobacco marketing that concluded there is “a causal relationship between tobacco advertising and increased levels of tobacco initiation and continued consumption.” It also found that much tobacco advertising targets the psychological needs of adolescents and that even brief exposure to tobacco advertising influences teenagers’ intentions to smoke.
  • Just this week, a new study published in the scientific journal Pediatrics found that R.J. Reynolds’ marketing campaign for Camel No. 9 cigarettes, launched in 2007, has resonated with teenage girls and dramatically increased their awareness of the brand – a factor known to increase the likelihood that teens will smoke. The fashion-themed marketing featured bright pink and teal packaging, advertising in top fashion magazines and promotional giveaways such as flavored lip balm, purses and cell phone jewelry.
  • Studies have found that kids are more susceptible to cigarette marketing and advertising than adults. According to federal surveys, 81.3 percent of youth smokers (12-17) prefer the three most heavily advertised brands, Marlboro, Newport and Camel, while only 54.1 percent of smokers over age 26 prefer these brands.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans each year – more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. It costs the nation $96 billion annually in health care bills. The FDA law brings us closer to the day when the tobacco industry can no longer use its deep pockets and deceitful marketing to ensnare and addict youth.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Joel Spivak at 202-296-5469.


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