February 13, 2009

Survey Shows Teen Smokers Prefer Marlboro

A new federal report released on Thursday found that Marlboro cigarettes are the runaway favorite of teen smokers, the Associated Press reported.

Because Marlboro is also the favored cigarette of most adults, anti-smoking advocates argued that the same advertising targeting adults is also influencing teens, despite smoking rates for that age group showing a recent decline.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said he was saddened that cigarettes are still the most heavily advertised drug in America.

Some 81 percent of established teen smokers favored the same three brands bought by most adults: Marlboro was the choice for 52 percent of high school students; Newport by 21 percent and Camel by 13 percent, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percentages for middle school students were 43 percent, 26 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

African-American students overwhelming favored Newport, with more than three-quarters of black high school smokers choosing that brand.

The survey polled 54,301 regular smokers who were part of the 2004 and 2006 National Youth Tobacco Survey of nearly 5 million 12- to 17-year-olds.

The most popular brands smoked by U.S. adults were also Marlboro, Newport and Camel "” mirroring the teen population, according to the 2007 National Study on Drug Use and Health.

"Adult influence is more likely a factor than advertising," said David Sutton, a spokesman at Altria Group Inc., which owns Philip Morris USA and the Marlboro brand.

Sutton said his company has cut advertising by 46 percent in the last decade and now focuses on direct mail marketing to adults and advertising for retailers that sell its brands.

"It's clear from the third-place ranking that Camel has succeeded in avoiding marketing to young people," said David Howard, a spokesman at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Camel cigarettes.

Both Sutton and Howard suggested that the teen smoking rate is dropping.

Smoking rates among American teens in 2008 were at the lowest levels since the survey began in 1991, according to a poll by the University of Michigan.

But anti-smoking advocates are still calling for even tougher restrictions on advertising and for more no-smoking campaigns.

The CDC has asked Congress to encourage funding for anti-smoking campaigns and to grant the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products and marketing.

These campaigns include the American Legacy Foundation's national "truth" campaign, which launched in 2000, and includes a television commercial showing young people unloading hundreds of body bags and stacking them in the street outside a major tobacco company to illustrate smoking-related deaths.

Donna Vallone, an official with the Legacy Foundation, said their mission is to try and get teens to rebel against tobacco companies by not smoking.

"The whole strategy is to make smoking not cool," Vallone said.


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