Truth makes difference in anti-smoking message

-- Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune - June 15

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

Tobacco executives weren't in a celebratory mood when Joe Camel was shoved into early retirement a few years ago, but they've apparently learned to get along quite nicely without him.

Young people are blithely inhaling sales pitches for cigarettes, despite ad restrictions imposed by the 1998 tobacco settlement, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

In a two-year survey, researchers found that adolescents and teen-agers were more likely than adults to remember details of tobacco ads and to underestimate the risks of smoking. The findings have renewed calls for stricter regulations, including a ban on glamorous images of smokers.

More limits may be difficult to enact or enforce, however. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the question of whether the 1998 restrictions are unconstitutional.

In any event, new restrictions may not be the quickest or most effective way to combat underage smoking.

For the past three years, Florida teens have teamed up with ad agencies to produce an aggressive anti-smoking campaign called ''the Truth.'' The edgy commercials and billboards bluntly ridicule cigarette makers for their deceitful history and graphically detail the consequences of smoking.

... Additional ad restrictions are worth discussing, but health advocates are likely to get better results from ''the Truth.''

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