Health Advocates Urge Congress to Crack Down on Tobacco Marketing to Kids
COLUMBIA, SC – March 23, 2009 – Kids across South Carolina will rally against tobacco on March 25 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 14th annual Kick Butts Day, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Hundreds of events are planned across the nation (for a list of local events, go to www.kickbuttsday.org/events).
This year, Kick Butts Day is raising awareness about continued tobacco marketing to kids and the need for Congress to crack down on these harmful practices by passing legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products.
Kick Butts Day comes on the heels of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that demonstrated how tobacco marketing continues to influence kids. The study found that youth smokers overwhelmingly prefer the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands — Philip Morris’ Marlboro, Lorillard’s Newport and R.J. Reynolds’ Camel. These brands were preferred by 78.2 percent of middle school smokers and 86.5 percent of high school smokers. Marlboro is preferred by more high school smokers, 52.3 percent, than all other brands combined.
To protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives, health advocates are urging Congress to pass legislation granting the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the legislation earlier this month.
Among other things, this legislation would crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids. It would limit tobacco advertising in stores and in magazines with significant teen readership to black-and-white text only, eliminating the colorful images that depict smoking as cool and glamorous. It would ban outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and playgrounds; end tobacco sponsorships of sports and entertainment events; and require stores to place tobacco products behind the counter.
We hope Kick Butts Day will inspire our nation’s leaders to take long-overdue action to protect our children from tobacco and save lives, said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Tobacco products are the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, yet they have escaped even the most basic regulation to protect public health. It’s time for Congress to end this special protection for the tobacco industry and protect our nation’s kids and health instead.
In addition to the marketing restrictions, the bill before Congress would require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products; ban misleading cigarette descriptions such as light and low-tar; strictly regulate all health claims about tobacco products; require disclosure of the contents of tobacco products; and allow the FDA to mandate changes in tobacco products, such as the reduction or removal of harmful chemicals.
At the state level, health advocates are urging governors and legislators to adopt proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, including higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free workplace laws, and well-funded programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
Since the 1998 tobacco settlement, tobacco companies have nearly doubled their annual marketing expenditures, from $6.9 billion in 1998 to $13.4 billion in 2005 — more than $36 million per day, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In South Carolina, tobacco companies spend $280.3 million a year to market their products.
Nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year, and 20 percent of high school students smoke. In South Carolina, tobacco use claims 6,100 lives, costs the state $1.09 billion in health care bills a year, and 17.8 percent of high school students smoke.
On Kick Butts Day, kids turn the tables on Big Tobacco with events that range from They put WHAT in a cigarette? demonstrations to mock-funerals for the Marlboro Man to rallies at state capitols. Activities in South Carolina include (all events are on March 25 unless otherwise noted):
Youth from the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative in Columbia will encourage state legislators to pass a significant increase to South Carolina’s cigarette tax. Time: 11 AM. Location: 1101 Gervais Street, South Carolina State House (Rotunda), Columbia. Contact: Kelly Davis (803) 479-0411.
At Cleveland Park, the Greenville Family Partnership in Greenville will be displaying household products that contain the same dangerous chemicals as cigarettes, such as ammonia and arsenic. Time: 2 PM. Location: 150 Cleveland Park Drive, Greenville. Contact: Alesia McFarlin (864) 467-4099.
Note to the media: For a list of Kick Butts Day events in South Carolina visit www.kickbuttsday.org/events. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.