Youth Smoking Prevention

Ever seen those ads on MTV? You know, the ones where you see these girls hanging out at KLCC, and they use a combination of SMS and new clothes to snag young men? And although all the while you think it's an ad for Maxis or something, what you get in the end is the tagline: "Doesn't smoke"?

Well, I dropped by the website and guess what? It's an ad campaign run by MTV funded by - wait for it - JTI and Philip Morris International. That's right, the guys who bring you Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Camel, Winston, Mild Seven and Salem and who have a combined annual revenue of more than USD100 billion from sales of tobacco-related products are running a campaign to stop young people smoking.

On one hand I would like to applaud this. I think it's highly appropriate that companies that provide cigarettes should also do all they can to ensure that children are not their customers. The phrase is "socially responsible".

On their website, Phillip Morris says, "We ... believe that stopping children from smoking is the right thing to do. In fact, because of the serious health effects of our products, we believe we must stop children from smoking.". Great Stuff.

On the other hand, I find it unlikely that these companies would seriously invest in anything that would significantly impact their bottom line. The statistics are online but are not the easiest in the world to interpret.

What I need to figure out is how much revenue these companies stand to lose if children under 18 stopped smokiing. Not just the immediate loss, but also the future loss since a lot of people who would otherwise begin to smoke before their 18th birthday would not end up being lifelong smokers.

My guess? Somewhere between 10%-20% of their revenue. It's a little bit of a wild stab, based on the survey that says in Malaysia about a quarter of the kids aged 16 smoke.

I think that tobacco companies just do this so that they can point to it and then claim those magic words: "socially responsible". Look at the Philip Morris website. You would think they were actively encouraging people not to smoke. They actually flat-out admit that it's dangerous. Yet they still sell cigarettes.
posted on Sunday, August 24, 2003 - permalink
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