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Major US report concludes tobacco promotion and advertising increases tobacco use

Saturday 23 August, 2008

A major new report released in the United States overnight has concluded tobacco promotion and advertising causes increased tobacco use.

The report from the National Cancer Institute, The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, also presents the conclusion that exposure to depictions of smoking in movies can prompt youth smoking uptake.

Co-author of the report, Professor Melanie Wakefield, from The Cancer Council Victoria, said the conclusions on the impact of tobacco promotion in encouraging tobacco use had clear ramifications in Australia.

"Despite most traditional forms of tobacco advertising being banned in Australia, the tobacco industry still uses the cigarette pack and product displays in retail environments to cleverly advertise to potential customers."

"This report illustrates that even brief exposure to tobacco advertising influences adolescents' attitudes and perceptions about smoking and smokers, and adolescents' intentions to smoke so we need to act to close down these remaining avenues the tobacco industry use to promote their products."

Professor Wakefield said banning tobacco displays in retail environments and removing the colour, logos and branding from cigarette packs to make them plain and therefore less eye-catching would be two effective strategies to reduce tobacco advertising.

Another key conclusion in the report was that mass media campaigns can reduce smoking, especially when combined with other tobacco control strategies.

Director of The Cancer Council Victoria, Professor David Hill, said quit smoking mass media campaigns are effective in reducing smoking rates and changing social norms and should be adequately funded to reflect this important role.

"Tobacco control mass media campaigns are an essential element of any plan to get smoking rates down, but they need to be sustained and have adequate exposure levels to be as effective as possible."

Professor Hill also commented on the report's conclusive evidence that tobacco marketing promotes youth smoking.

"This report refutes, once and for all, the tobacco industry's claim that its marketing is aimed at existing smokers and should spur governments worldwide to implement the international tobacco control treaty, which calls on governments to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships and fund effective public education campaigns."

Executive Director of Quit, Ms Fiona Sharkie said the conclusion that exposure to depictions of smoking in movies can prompt youth smoking uptake should force the film industry to consider how smoking is represented in movies.

"The portrayal of smoking in movies does not reflect the number of people who smoke in reality. One in every two lead characters smoke compared with one in seven people in reality."

"The Film Classification Board already takes account of drug use when it determines what rating to give a film. We would strongly encourage the Board to also consider film portrayals of tobacco use in this context."

"An important solution lies in the hands of the film industry, especially overseas where the majority of films shown here are made. The industry should take more responsibility for the extent and manner in which smoking is depicted in films, especially films intended for young audiences."

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