Cigarette Advertising Essay, Research Paper
The issue of cigarette advertising has been controversial for many years. Recently, opponents of cigarette advertising, believing that the ads encourage young people to take up smoking, have called for stronger governmental controls. Proponents claim that a product that is lawful to produce, sell, and consume has every right to be advertised. This article examines recent research on the effects of cigarette advertising and shows that there is no evidence to support the belief that cigarette ads encourage people to take up smoking.
Up until 1970, cigarettes had been advertised like other consumer products, but health concerns led to a government-imposed ban on broadcast advertising. More recent announcements from the Surgeon General have stated that smoking is not only harmful to one’s health but also addictive. This combination of factors has spurred antismoking activists to call for a complete ban on cigarette advertising.
Tobacco companies have responded by claiming that cigarette ads do not create primary demand or encourage increased smoking. These companies also argue that a total ban on cigarette advertising would be unconstitutional.
A good deal of research has been done on the effects of cigarette advertising, and the studies fell into two categories: statistical and perceptual. The statistical studies used econometric analyses to identify factors that significantly affected cigarette sales over a fixed period of time. The perceptual studies used a variety of methods to determine how cigarette ads affected readers’ opinions about smokers and smoking.
These studies all showed that cigarette advertising does have an impact on its audience, but none showed that ads created demand where none had existed or that ads encouraged smokers to consume more cigarettes.
Ten articles reporting on the findings of econometric analyses were examined. These reports shared basic elements. All compared cigarette and/or tobacco consumption against a variety of other variables, including total cigarette advertising expenditures, per capita income, average price for a pack of cigarettes, and health warnings. All used mathematical formulas to determine which variables proved (statistically) to significantly affect cigarette/tobacco consumption. Some articles differed in the type of formula used, but these provided additional depth to the investigation.
Four of these studies suggested that advertising does play a significant role in increasing cigarette sales. Leeflang & Reuijl (1985) examined the effects of advertising on cigarette sales in West Germany from 1960 to 1975. Their findings showed that ads had a positive effect on sales initially but became less important over time. They also found that the carryover effects of advertising had previously been over-estimated.
Two studies conducted in New Zealand also showed advertising’s positive effect on cigarette sales. Chetwynd, Coope, Brodie, & Wells (1988) reported on the effects of cigarette advertising from 1973 to 1985. They found that ads significantly affected sales on the quarterly level but became non-significant at the yearly level. Laugesen & Meads (1991) took the investigation a step farther. They looked at advertising’s effects on weekly cigarette sales. By focussing on a shorter time frame, the authors discovered that only ads for “downmarket” or low-cost brands positively affected cigarette sales.
In one study investigating the relationship between cigarette advertising expenditures and consumption in the United States from 1949 to 1985, Wilcox (1991) found that advertising positively affected sales for five of the ten brands studied. Later studies by Wilcox did not yield the same findings. Wilcox & Vacker (1992), studying the same variables but for the time period 1961 to 1990, reported no statistical significance for advertising. Looking at the same relationship in South Korea from 1988 to 1992, Wilcox, Tharp, & Yang (1994) again found no significant relationship between advertising and cigarette sales.
Yasin (1995) examined the effects of advertising on a variety of fast-moving consumer goods, including cigarettes, in England from 1986 to 1993. For cigarettes, the author found an advertising-to-sales ratio of 62% but market growth of only 4.3%. Every study that included the price of cigarettes and personal income as independent variables found them to be the most influential factors affecting sales. An increase in the price of cigarettes always resulted in decreased consumption while an increase in personal income always resulted in increased consumption.
Several studies found that consumers were willing to pay more for advertised cigarette brands. Yasin (1995) discovered that smokers would pay 21% more for the advertised brands than the generic store brands.
Abernathy &Teel (1986), studying the effects of advertising regulation on cigarette sales from 1949 to 1981, found that counter-advertising and health warnings reduced consumption more than manufacturer’s ads increased it.
The 11 articles dealing with subjects’ beliefs about cigarette ads, smokers, and smoking each approached the issue from different angles. Descriptions of the most significant studies follow.
Crowley & Pokrywczynski (1991) studied the perceptions of 341 individuals within the advertising industry on the effects of cigarette advertising. The subjects were asked to quantify their agreement or disagreement with 20 statements using a five-point scale (1 indicating strong disagreement and 5 indicating strong agreement). The mean response for the statement “Ads don’t get young people to start smoking” was 1.98. For the statement “Ads don’t influence consumption,” the mean response was 2.05; for the statement “Ads get people to switch brands,” the mean response was 3.35; for the statement “More counter-advertising is needed to reduce cigarette smoking,” the mean response was 3.78. Mizerski (1995) performed a study on the ability of 790 children aged 3 to 6 years old to identify the relationship between cartoon trade characters and the products they advertise.
The subjects were also asked to give a good/bad preference for the product. The trade characters included Joe Camel, the Marlboro Man, Cap’n Crunch, and Mickey Mouse. The study found that older kids could make more matches with 25% of 3-year-olds and 72% of the 6-year-olds correctly associating Joe Camel with cigarettes. The percentage of children stating a positive preference for cigarettes decreased as their ages increased.
Altman, Slater, Albright, & Maccoby (1987) looked at 778 magazine ads for cigarettes dating from 1960 to 1985 to determine how the tobacco industry appeals to its audience. They paid special attention to those ads placed in women’s and youth magazines. The authors discovered that visible smoke in ads decreased to complete absence by 1985. Ads developing adventure/risk, erotic/romantic, and low-tar/low-nicotine themes became more common over the time period. Cigarette ads in youth-oriented magazines emphasized adventure/risk appeals while ads in women’s magazines developed erotic/romantic themes.
Zinser, Kloosterman, & Williams (1994) took the most direct approach to determine what influences people to take up smoking. Interviewing 177 college students who smoked, Zinser, et al. asked them to identify the causes of aspects of their smoking behavior by distributing 100 points across a list of possible causes. The majority of subjects listed near-age friends and acquaintances as the cause of their taking up smoking. Ads were the least likely cause of starting smoking but were the second leading influence in quitting. Loken and Howard-Pitney (1988) studied the effectiveness of cigarette ads on women. The authors asked 115 college-age women to rate the attractiveness, persuasiveness, and credibility of eight cigarette ads, four showing a healthy woman smoking and four showing simply a cigarette or pack of cigarettes. The authors found that the ads with the model were rated more attractive and more persuasive, but less credible, than the ads showing just the cigarette(s).
Aitken & Eadie (1990) interviewed 848 11- to 14-year-olds in Glasgow, Scotland, to learn their awareness and appreciation of cigarette ads and to determine the reinforcing effects of those ads on children. The authors found that 7% of the subjects were smokers while 67% of them had never smoked. Nine percent could name a cigarette ad they liked; 18% were able to name a cigarette ad they disliked. Boys and smokers had less negative perceptions of cigarette ads. Older subjects and smokers were more able to recognize cigarette ads, even when copy was missing or distorted.
In a follow-up to the previous study, Aitken, Eadie, Hastings, & Haywood (1991) re-interviewed 640 of the subjects one year later to see if the levels of awareness and appreciation for cigarette ads were predictors of changes in intent to smoke. Children whose intention to smoke increased between the two interviews were more able to identify cigarette ads in the first interview and became more appreciative of them by the second interview. Children whose intention to smoke decreased were less appreciative of cigarette ads in the first interview and became less appreciative and less adept at recalling them by the second interview.
Based on the results of these studies, there is no compelling evidence to support claims that cigarette advertising encourages people to take up smoking.
The majority of statistical studies found that ads were non-significant factors in increasing cigarette consumption. All of the studies that included price of cigarettes and personal income as variables found them to be the most and only significant factors to affect consumption. Of the investigations that did find ads to be significant, all were not significant over the long term, and none described the type or type of ads. If the ads emphasized price, the price of cigarettes could be the significant influence as opposed to the ad itself.
The perceptual studies returned a variety of findings, but none provided strong evidence of cigarette ads initiating the desire to smoke. A correlation between smoking and interest in cigarette ads was found, but this is not proof of ads affecting behavior. When surveyed, advertising professionals indicated their beliefs that ads can influence people to start smoking and to quit smoking. However, when smokers were asked to identify the cause of their taking up smoking, ads were the least likely cause. The perceptual studies did find that ads are an effective weapon to encourage people to stop smoking. Taking the results of the statistical and perceptual studies together, a strong case can be made against the belief that cigarette ads create the desire to take up smoking.
As shown above, current research does not support the claim that cigarette advertising encourages people to take up smoking. However, further research should be done to clarify these findings. Future econometric studies should include data for the types (promotional, image, etc.) of cigarette advertising. These studies should also seek to determine why ads can significantly affect sales in the short term but not over longer periods of time. Future perceptual studies should build on the work of Zinser, et al. and take a wider sample of smokers. Such a study should also include the choice “Other” to prevent bias. The work of Aitken, et al. should be extended by studying the relationship of cigarette ad awareness to smoking intent over a longer term.