Published on .

The Clinton administration is considering whether some kind of independent panel might settle the "do-they-or-don't-they" debate about tobacco ads' appeal to underage smokers. But if advertising leaders, including those associated with the industry's successful self-regulatory program, believe pre-approval of cigarette ads by such an outside panel will work, we say think again.

American Association of Advertising Agencies VP John Camp said the industry might consider a government proposal for a panel that would screen cigarette ads and identify those that appeal to children if the panel is truly a non-governmental group.

Assuming any panel could be agreed upon, and could agree on criteria and methodology ..... well, those are breathtaking assumptions. And when all is said and done-if ever-would pre-approval of ads have much affect on underage smoking? Some, maybe, but not much. Peer pressure, easy availability, affordable cost and the basic adolescent attraction to products that seem "adult" are far more potent influences.

Tobacco ads make an inviting target, of course. Ads that appeal, legally, to the 18-to-25 year old crowd undoubtedly have impact on younger teens. But there's more to gain from tough measures to enforce laws that bar sales to minors, from bans on sampling and from higher taxes that raise prices enough to discourage more kids from taking up the habit. And there's one more important initiative: more and better anti-smoking marketing.

If peer pressure is the biggest villain in underage smoking-and we believe it is-then government and the marketing community should work harder to make smoking unhip. Turn the big creative guns loose, as the industry did with drugs. Get the trendsetters behind it. Promoting anti-smoking will do more than trying to assemble a body of "experts" to screen what is pro-smoking advertising.

Most Popular
In this article: