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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced four major tobacco companies have agreed to remove ads for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products from copies of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report distributed to high schools and middle schools.
"Millions of kids read these magazines in their schools every week," said Lockyer. "We are pleased the companies have responded favorably to our request that they discontinue their ads in these school editions. Their responsible action will significantly reduce our children's exposure to tobacco advertising, which studies show increases the chances kids will smoke or use other tobacco products."
The agreements were reached between the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Lockyer is president of NAAG.
The three magazines' school programs – known as Time Classroom, Newsweek Education Program and U.S. News Classroom Extension Program – each week distribute hundreds of thousands of copies of the magazines to high school and middle school classrooms in the United States. The estimated total audience for Newsweek's program alone is 1 million students. Newsweek sends about 300,000 copies to participating classrooms, and each copy is read by an average of 3.5 students.
Major magazine publishers employ a process called "selective binding" or "copy split," which allows advertisers to place ads in certain copies of the magazine and not in others. From January 2002 through June 2003, the four tobacco companies placed approximately 120 ads for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in the three magazines.
In June, NAAG's Tobacco Enforcement Committee wrote to the four firms, asking that they work with the publishers to ensure tobacco ads did not appear in the magazines' classroom editions. Discussions with the tobacco companies ensued, culminating in each firm's commitment to eliminate its ads from the school editions.
The Attorneys General have long recognized that youth access to tobacco products ranks among the most serious public health problems. Studies show that more than 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18.
Additionally, research indicates that every day in the United States, more than 2,000 people under the age of 18 begin smoking and that one-third of those persons ultimately will die from a tobacco-related disease. Young people are particularly susceptible to the hazards of tobacco, often showing signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes.
In 1999, Lockyer established a full-time Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section to enforce California laws regarding the sale and marketing of tobacco products. The section also enforces the national Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), reached with tobacco companies in November 1998.
Californians who suspect violations of state tobacco laws or the MSA can file complaints by calling 916-565-6486 at any time, or by writing to the Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Additional information is available on the Attorney General's web site at http://www.ag.ca.gov/tobacco/ .