The study, which appears in the American Journal of Public Health, found that exposure to Philip Morris' teen-targeted ads -- tagged "Think. Don't Smoke" -- decreased anti-tobacco attitudes among 12- to 17-year-olds and increased the likelihood that non-smokers in this age group would say they intend to smoke in the future after viewing the ads.
American Legacy President-CEO Cheryl Healton said in a statement that Philip Morris' teen-focused effort "parades as a youth anti-smoking campaign, but it's really a wolf in sheep's clothing. Philip Morris should pull its 'Think. Don't Smoke' ads off the air."
Aimed at parents
Philip Morris it is
"Right now there are a lot of other ads that are aimed at kids, and there are very few ads that are running that are aimed at parents," Mr. McCormick said. "There's a lot of research out there about the important rules parents have to play."
Earlier this year Philip Morris broke TV ads, from WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, targeting parents with the tagline "Talk. They'll Listen."
The study is the latest salvo in an increasingly shrill war between the foundation and Big Tobacco. In February, Lorillard Tobacco Co. sued Legacy for "vilifying" tobacco companies and therefore violating the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement. The foundation in turn filed its own suit against Lorillard, saying the tobacco maker was trying to crush the "Truth" campaign because of its success.
In addition to the published study, the foundation released a separate report today claiming its "Truth" campaign, which launched in February 2000, had higher recall levels among youth than the Philip Morris teen-focused effort. The research showed that 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds recalled the American Legacy ads, while 66% recalled those from Philip Morris.
Philip Morris maintains it does not air any ad unless 90% or more of children and parents interviewed by the company clearly identify a "don't smoke" message. Since its inception in 1998, more than 13,000 children and their parents were interviewed as part Philip Morris' Youth Smoking Prevention department's research, and 19 commercials designed for youth have aired, Mr. McCormick said.
Advertising will continue
"We are going to certainly take a look at the literature that [American Legacy] put together," Mr. McCormick said. "Advertising will continue to be alongside our program's approach as one of the ways we use to reach out and have a positive impact on the youth-smoking issue."
Research for the American Legacy and American Public Health Association reports was based on data from two Legacy Media Tracking surveys, which interviewed teenagers nationally over the phone before and after the "Truth" campaign aired to assess changes in attitudes and responses.