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The U.S. District court's decision to declare tobacco an addictive drug that can be regulated by the Food & Drug Administration is a major victory for our nation's children. The FDA's authority to regulate tobacco has been upheld, clearing the way for the first meaningful effort to protect children from the epidemic of tobacco addiction.

It was also decided that the FDA does not have the right to control advertising and promotion of tobacco. Some might argue that this was an overwhelming win for the advertising industry. I agree. But our responsibility to do the right thing does not stop with self-congratulations. Now it is even more clear that our industry must take its own steps in keeping tobacco out of the hands of our nation's children.

I've argued all along that our industry must act responsibly without the government telling us what to do. Several months ago, I began an effort, called the Initiative for Tobacco Marketing to Children, to encourage our advertising trade organizations to take charge of developing voluntary guidelines to eliminate marketing tobacco to kids.

Now, with the threat of government regulation out of the way, our industry should seize the opportunity to set our own guidelines and to increase our emphasis on preventative advertising to decrease the use of tobacco by children.


The momentum of events continues to support this action. With this new court decision, Liggett Group's recent admission that smoking is addictive and targeted to minors, and the proposed settlement offered by the other tobacco companies, pressure is coming from all sides.

Already forces, including the federal government, public health groups and child welfare organizations, are rallying to appeal the court's decision on advertising and promotion. Even the tobacco industry has alluded to a government deal that will set up voluntary regulations, much like those that were proposed by the FDA. We must act now.

Our responsibility as creators of this advertising is to assure that we recommend and develop advertising responsibly and in concert with our tobacco clients. No product needs the application of this philosophy more than tobacco. It is the only product that we advertise that can kill you when used as directed. And tobacco is first and most often used by our young people. Virtually all smokers begin when they are children, and the advertised brands are the cigarettes they smoke the most.

Despite the grim statistics, and even the tobacco industry's own admission of its danger, our industry continues to create advertising that clearly targets children.

Advertising that portrays cigarettes with youthful, athletic, energetic activity. Advertising imagery that is colorful and animated. Publications and signage that are easily seen by children. Promotions that are distributed at family events. Children wearing ball caps, carrying lighters and tote bags, and drinking from cups bearing cigarette brand images are a common part of our landscape.

We don't need regulation to tell us that this type of marketing is wrong. We only need look in the mirror for the answer. Isn't it time we stopped?

The impact on our industry is dramatic. Our own industry research shows that advertising's credibility has dropped substantially over recent years. Could these actions have anything to do with it? Nearly all work for tobacco companies has become a lightning rod, and the attacks will continue against the agencies that support this activity.


Once lonely efforts by agencies to create antismoking campaigns are now prestigious and sought after. Leading the pack is the award-winning work by the state of California. Massachusetts also got an early start, followed by Minnesota and Arizona. Other states are getting in on the action.

The work is creative, well publicized and well compensated-the main ingredients of any successful account. This is the kind of work we can all feel good about.

Keeping the government out of our business is the right thing to do. So is keeping tobacco out of the hands of our children. We can continue to put our heads in the sand-or we can do something.

Let's end the debate once and for all. Let's work together to set up voluntary guidelines to stop marketing tobacco to children. On our own terms.

Mr. Milenthal is chairman of HMS Partners, Columbus, Ohio, and founder of the Initiative for Tobacco Marketing to Children.

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