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Ads miff Big Tobacco – Media campaign targets teens

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With $185 million in funds, the nation’s biggest anti-smoking campaign is producing hard-hitting ads against the very industry that funds its work, Newsweek reports.

The American Legacy Foundation, established in 1998 as part of Big Tobacco’s $246 billion legal settlement, aims to reduce smoking with state-of-the-art ads that run on prime-time television.

The foundation’s aggressive campaign is constrained by a funding clause:  The foundation may not run ads that seek to “vilify” tobacco companies or their executives, Newsweek reports.

The latest multimedia campaign draws on research that shows teens respond best to ads that directly attack the tobacco industry.

One study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded: “Anti-tobacco advertisements need to be ambitious, hard-hitting, explicit, and in-your-face.”

Another recent study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 12- and 13-year olds who regularly were exposed to confrontational advertising were half as likely to smoke as their peers who did not see the ads. Most smokers start in their teens.

Philip Morris has invoked the clause to pull two confrontational ads from the campaign.

In one censored ad, two teens enter tobacco industry headquarters carrying an oversized briefcase marked “lie detector” and announce they want to clear up confusion about whether smoking is addictive.

Clearly flustered security guards remove the teens from the building.

Another controversial ad shows a group of teens arriving at industry  headquarters in an 18-wheel truck.

The teens proceed to unload hundreds of long white sacks marked “body bag” in front of the building. One teen with a megaphone shouts: “Do you know how many people tobacco kills every day?”

The ads never state that the tobacco company was Philip Morris, and the foundation is considering ways to modify the ads according to Philip Morris’s objections, Newsweek says.

The American Nonsmokers Rights foundation has announced the two censored ads can be viewed on its Web site. 

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