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"Only Kids" Focus is Ineffective [11/27-1]

Proposals to focus federal anti-tobacco legislation only on kids is likely to fail, at least according to some experts who have examined what has happened in California.

Here are excerpts from an article in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:


As the federal government and the states gear up to combat teen smoking, California - the state with the longest-running anti- tobacco effort - may offer a startling lesson: Focusing ad campaigns on teens alone doesn't work. And nobody seems to know what kind of approach does work.

Lessons from the Golden State are taking on fresh relevance as Congress considers a $ 368 billion national tobacco settlement (and individual states cut deals) that could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into teen antismoking campaigns.

Over the past decade, California has spent large sums on campaigns to reduce smoking among its citizens - particularly youngsters. And it has cut adult cigarette use by some 40 percent.

Today, 18 percent of Californians smoke, compared with a 25 percent nationwide average. But despite the effort, since 1993 the rate among teens has climbed from 9 percent to 11.6 percent.

Officials attribute the increase to funding cuts, which reduced yearly antismoking outlays to as low as $ 36 million before a lawsuit forced the state to restore funding to $ 102 million this year.

But critics like Stanton Glantz, a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, blame the increase on the youth focus of prevention campaigns, because "kids are looking at young adults."

Other experts agree with Dr. Glantz's analysis.

"It's going to backfire if you're not doing anything about adult smoking," agrees John Pierce, a cancer researcher at the University of California at San Diego. "You'll miss the audience because kids are trying to be like adults."

California - with its new, graphic anti-industry ads - has a media budget of $ 33 million a year, Pierce says, a pittance compared with industry spending that totals 10 times that amount.

"We don't have any messages that are powerful with kids, compared to their messages," Pierce says. "We have by the age of 9 an effective school program. But by 14, we've lost it. We are getting blown away. Marlboro has really won the battle. It took them 15 years to come up with Joe Camel and the Marlboro man."

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