Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Smoke Screen: The New York Times editorializes about a new study showing that the anti-smoking efforts sponsored by the tobacco industry are “notably ineffective and possibly even a sham.”

Companies like Altria (the former Philip Morris) have spent millions of dollars on ads purportedly designed to discourage underage smoking, but the ads seem to have been more effective at deflecting criticism of the industry than at reducing teen cigarette usage.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health and authored by academic researchers supported by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, concluded that ads aimed directly at young people had no beneficial effect, while those aimed at parents were actually harmful: the greater teenagers’ exposure to the ads, the stronger their intention to smoke and the greater their likelihood of having smoked in the past 30 days.

Without taking sides on the merits of the study, one thing is clear: if Philip Morris wants people to believe it is serious in its intent, it is going to have to produce better evidence of its commitment than it did in response to the Times, boasting about the number of teenagers exposed to the campaign. Exposure, obviously, is not the issue, and the company needs to research the impact its anti-smoking ads are having.

Unless, of course, it already has such research, and is secretly pleased with what it shows.


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