In an unprecedented one-hour program on the tobacco industry entitled "Never Say Die: How the Cigarette Companies Keep on Winning," ABC-TV's Peter Jennings provided even more evidence that tobacco companies deliberately target kids.
Here are some excerpts from the program:
NEVER SAY DIE: HOW THE CIGARETTE COMPANIES KEEP ON WINNING:
Most regular smokers in the United States, about 8 out of 10, begin to smoke when they are younger than 18- in other words, when they are children. And that is why there is such a battle right now between those who want to regulate the tobacco companies, in the name of children, and the companies, who insist that smoking is an adult choice.
[voice-over] How they begin and when they begin is pretty well documented by now. Last month ABC News conducted its own poll of smokers under 18 and we found roughly the same pattern that researchers have been finding for more than 20 years.
PETER JENNINGS: [voice-over] The average age for beginning smokers was 12-and-a-half years old. And, on average, most who smoked had tried to quit by the age of 14. By the time they were 15 or older, nearly half the young smokers said they were hooked.
PUSHING CIGARETTE TO KIDS WITH JOE CAMEL:
PETER JENNINGS: [voice-over] When Dr. Kessler and other critics accuse the tobacco companies of targeting children, they point specifically to a character named Joe Camel. It is an accusation that R.J. Reynolds, the company behind Camel cigarettes, unequivocally denies.
PETER JENNINGS: [voice-over] In 1984 Reynolds's best-selling cigarette, Winston, was losing market share to its competitor, Marlboro. Burroughs spent two years trying to figure out how Reynolds could attract more young, beginning smokers.
PETER JENNINGS: [voice-over] Reynolds researchers did understand, as their own internal documents suggest, that most beginning smokers were 18 or younger.
Twenty years ago, in 1976, when Reynolds was preparing its business forecast, their researchers wrote, 'The 14- to 18-year-old group is an increasing segment of the smoking population. RJR must soon establish a successful new brand in this market.'
And in 1994, seven years after the Joe Camel campaign was launched, a study released by the federal Centers for Disease Control concluded that Camels' popularity had shot up among teenagers 18 and under.
When Reynolds pushed the Joe Camel image in the marketplace, they focused on convenience stores, the place most underage smokers get their cigarettes. Mike Shaw, [sp?] Amy Lowkes [sp?] and Cheryl Roundtree [sp?] were Reynolds sales reps.
[interviewing] Was there ever any doubt in your mind that it was part of your job to sell cigarettes to teenagers?
MIKE SHAW: I knew it was part of my job to sell cigarettes to anyone that I could, not particularly or specifically teenagers, but to anyone, and that would include teenagers.
PETER JENNINGS: If you could push R.J. Reynolds cigarettes to 18-year-olds, would you do it? Would you be expected to do it?
AMY LOWKES: Yes.
PETER JENNINGS: Sixteen-year-olds?
AMY LOWKES: Yes.
PETER JENNINGS: Fifteen?
AMY LOWKES: I would say teenagers 13 and up.
PETER JENNINGS: Thirteen and up. In other words, you- do you believe that your company expected you to push the product all the way down to 13-year-olds?
AMY LOWKES: Not- not directly, one on one. By way of promotion and advertising, yes, not direct sales. Not from me to you or from me to a 13-year-old, but by- by using the promotional items, by putting the T-shirts there, you- you've removed yourself from the situation and then- and let the sale happen.
PETER JENNINGS: [voice-over] In two internal memos written in 1990, two Reynolds division managers tell their reps to identify stores near high schools, in an effort to target young adults. A few months later, after one of these memos was leaked to the press, its author issued a retraction, telling his staff, 'I was wrong with my reference to high school-aged young adults.'
[interviewing] But were you asked to go and- and survey consumer stores close to high schools, for example?
AMY LOWKES: Yes.
PETER JENNINGS: Did you ever ask why close to high schools?
AMY LOWKES: I didn't ask why. I knew. I mean, I think we- there's so much that goes on that it's just an understanding. You know, we know.
CHERYL ROUNDTREE: That was very clear in the-
AMY LOWKES: It was real clear.
CHERYL ROUNDTREE: -that we were to target outlets near colleges and high schools. That was very clear.
PETER JENNINGS: [voice-over] We asked for an interview with a senior Reynolds executive. We were turned down. In a written response, Reynolds denied their sales force targeted high school students. It said the managers who wrote those two memos were disciplined and that Joe Camel was not aimed at anyone under 18.
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