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Physicians Fume As Anti-Smoking Group Honors Top Cigarette Ad Publisher

February 24, 2005

Boston - An organization set up by the nation's attorneys general to combat smoking is giving an award to America's top publisher of cigarette ads. Two medical researchers, objecting to the recognition of Time, Inc. by the American Legacy Foundation for "progress in tobacco-free publications," have released research showing that millions of adolescents continue to be exposed to tobacco advertisements in magazines published by Time, Inc. each week. The American Legacy Foundation will present the award at a $500 per plate fundraiser for the Foundation on February 28th, 2005.

According to Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Boston University School of Public Health and Alan Blum, MD, Director of the University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, four Time, Inc. publications (TIME, Entertainment Weekly, People Weekly, and Sports Illustrated) combined to expose over 4 million youths to 219 tobacco ads in 2004, a substantial increase from the 138 tobacco ads that these magazines carried in 2001.

The American Legacy Foundation was established in 1999 with more than $2 billion over five years from the tobacco industry as part of the Master Settlement Agreement with the attorneys general. As these funds have been depleted, Legacy has courted sponsors outside of the tobacco industry. Legacy's website lists media giant Time-Warner, parent of Time, Inc., among its new corporate partners, whom it describes as leaders in this important movement. The invitation to the American Legacy Foundation Honors dinner, co-sponsorships for which sell for $100,000, states that Time, Inc. "shares our sense of purpose and our commitment to making our nation tobacco-free."

"This is nonsense," said Dr. Siegel. "You either take tobacco ads or you don't. This Legacy award is a complete sham, and it makes a mockery of half a century of public health efforts to curb tobacco use and promotion."

The researchers point out that forty years after the publication of the Surgeon General's report indicting cigarette smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer and other diseases, Time, Inc. not only continues to carry cigarette advertising but fiercely defends the acceptance of such revenue. In response to repeated pleas through the years from readers to stop taking tobacco ads, Time, Inc. continues to give a stock reply: "TIME, like all commercial magazines, must carry ads; it is largely through ads that the huge cost of putting together each week's issue can be met. And as long as the products in the ads are legitimate items of commerce --- and as long as the ads are within the bounds of good taste --- we accept them. And that includes cigarette ads."

Siegel and Blum found that in the first two months of 2005, the 22 tobacco advertisements in the four Time, Inc. magazines (from RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, Reynolds American Tobacco Company [formerly Brown & Williamson] and the United States Smokeless Tobacco Company [USST], plus promotional ads for Philip Morris USA, makers of Marlboro, the world's leading cigarette) exceeded the number of tobacco ads during the same period last year (14).

"Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S., accounting for more than 400,000 deaths each year," noted Dr. Blum. "One has to question the sanity of those who would honor a publisher that has been in cahoots with the tobacco industry for decades."

This week's issue of TIME contains a full-page advertisement for Reynolds' Camel cigarettes and two half-page ads for USST's Skoal, which, based on 2001 youth readership data, will reach approximately 1.4 million adolescents; Entertainment Weekly contains a full-page Camel ad and two half-page Skoal ads, which will reach approximately 1.8 million youths; People Weekly contains a full-page Camel ad and will reach approximately 3.2 million adolescents; and the current Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue contains full-page ads for Camel and Brown & Williamson's Kool cigarettes, which will reach approximately 3.7 million adolescents.

Time-Warner has also been criticized for contributing to youth smoking through its depiction of smoking in movies produced by the media corporation. Recent data indicate that Time-Warner accounted for 25% of all tobacco impressions delivered to children and teenagers by first-run movies during the period 1999-2003. The American Legacy Foundation itself has criticized the promotion of cigarette smoking through magazine advertisements and tobacco depictions in the movies. "At the same time that the American Legacy Foundation bemoans the high exposure of youths to cigarette advertising in magazines and in movies," observed Dr. Blum, "it rewards the very company largely responsible for these exposures."


Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, 617-638-5167 (mbsiegel@bu.edu)

Alan Blum, MD, 205-348-2886 (ABlum@cchs.ua.edu)

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Page created February 27, 2005 and page format updated June 13, 2015 by John R. Polito