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Anti-smoking Truth Campaign



(United Press International via COMTEX) -- Hundreds of dead bodies in bags are being carried out of trucks, one after another. One man yells, "Do you know how many people tobacco kills everyday? Twenty? Thirty? One hundred. ... We're going to leave this here for you so you can see what 1,200 people actually look like."

This is one of the many "truth advertisements" by the American Legacy Foundation aired on television everyday. The Legacy believes their truth ads are an anti-smoking campaign that works, while Philip Morris's anti-smoking ads are just a facade, which should be pulled off the air.

"What we found out about that (Philip Morris) campaign is deeply troubling," said Dr. Cheryl Healton, Legacy's president and chief executive officer. "Not only are the ads ineffective in reducing smoking but 'Think -- don't smoke' ads are actually counterproductive."

The truth campaign's primary audience is 12- to 17-years-old. The campaign is based on the strategy that young people who are most likely to smoke are rebellious, value independence, and want freedom from authority.

"So the goal of truth is to encourage rebellious youth to decide that not smoking is a sign of independence," Healton said.

The truth ads educate teens about the deadly and addictive nature of tobacco products by providing compelling and surprising facts. The ads show that by rejecting tobacco use, teenagers can satisfy their needs to challenge authority and be rebellious.

"The dramatic reductions in youth smoking have resulted from the truth campaign," Healton said. "Two years into the campaign, kids attitudes have become much more anti-tobacco as a result of the truth ads."

Healton believes that the truth campaign contributed to decreasing smoking rates. There is a 20 percent decline among high-school students and a 40 percent among middle-school students.

In a press release issued by Philip Morris, Senior Vice President Howard Willard said, "Philip Morris U.S.A.'s Youth Smoking Prevention Department believes that this reduction is the result of the collective efforts and resources of many committed public and private-sector organizations, including Philip Morris U.S.A."

But Legacy believes the Philip Morris ads are actually hurting teenagers and are decreasing the effectiveness of state and national anti-smoking campaigns by making young people more likely to smoke in the future.

Instead of reducing youth smoking, Legacy believes Philip Morris dangerously encourages kids to use tobacco and become addicted Philip Morris customers. For that reason, Legacy wants the tobacco industry, especially Philip Morris to "stop their phony youth prevention programs which do more harm than good," said William Corr, executive vice president of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Willard said he is confident that their smoking prevention campaign expresses a clear message that not smoking is the right decision for teenagers to make.

Corr doesn't agree. "We want Philip Morris and other tobacco companies to stay away from our kids," he said. "That means the tobacco industry must stop spending billions on seductive tobacco marketing, which impacts kids."


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