A recent study has uncovered the way that big tobacco companies are targeting young people with advertisements while continuing to abide by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The agreement was signed in 1998 to support antismoking efforts, cease use of cartoon characters in cigarette ads, and eliminate tobacco billboards and bus bench ads.
The new study, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that in Los Angeles, 25% of tobacco ads were located within 500 feet of a school, playground, or church. Additionally, the researchers found that in Louisiana, about 20% of tobacco ads were within 500 feet of a school, playground, or church.
The researchers also found that tobacco advertisers use multiple posters, banners, and fliers to get the pro-smoking message out instead of using the banned billboards. Of 81 tobacco billboards observed in Los Angeles, 99% were posters, banners, or fliers. Of those 81, 27% appeared 2 to four 4 in the same location.
“You have these small media, posted multiple times in multiple locations,” says Molly Scott, lead author of the study and a Rand Corporation researcher. “These are not huge billboards, so they [tobacco companies] are complying. But in the big sense of things, not so much.”