Limiting Tobacco Advertising to Youth
Tobacco companies use advertisements to encourage nonsmokers to begin smoking and to discourage smokers from quitting. The Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 began restricting tobacco advertising through bans on both television and radio advertisements for cigarettes. Since then, many more restrictions have been put in place; however, cigarette advertisements are still common and abundant through a variety of media. Even after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) which, prohibited tobacco companies from specifically targeting youth, tobacco companies continued to direct their advertising efforts at adolescents and young adults in more subtle ways. While federal laws limit state and local restrictions, much still can be done to regulate local advertising of tobacco products .
For example, in its 2007 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that tobacco advertisements be limited to text only black and white formats. This change would allow the industry to convey price and product information while reducing smoking levels among both youth and adults.
For many years, the tobacco industry has played a public part in youth anti-smoking efforts. Today, as part of their on-going efforts to appear as good corporate citizens, tobacco companies spend millions of dollars each year on what are meant to be youth anti-smoking campaigns. Even as these campaigns focus on decision-making they ignore the health effects of smoking. Tobacco control advocates believe that these tobacco company marketing efforts are actually designed to promote smoking by providing the industry access to youth and their decision-making processes through marketing surveys, making the industry seem trustworthy, and by using their corporate names establishing early brand identification among future smokers .
One Coalition’s Success in Gaining Restrictions on Tobacco Advertising
In 1997, members of the Los Angeles County Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Policy Coalition, frustrated with the abundance of tobacco and alcohol billboards in their neighborhoods, began a campaign to restrict such advertising. The campaign pushed for a City Council ordinance to restrict storefront and billboard advertising by tobacco and alcohol companies. The Coalition, comprising more than 60 member organizations, targeted Los Angeles City Council members and worked to involve the community in all aspects of the campaign. While the immediate goal was to pass an ordinance, the Coalition also hoped to build a group that would continue to fight for a healthier environment even after the ordinance was passed.
The first thing the Coalition did was develop a strategy with six clear areas of focus:
- Involve local leaders and groups
- Develop a clear vision, goals, and objectives
- Create a clear and consistent message
- Identify key allies and core constituents
- Assess the opposition
- Develop creative tactics 
The Coalition conducted a variety of activities within these six areas. Coalition members researched the community and provided fact sheets and studies to the media and City Council members. Their research included information not only about the community, but also facts on the effects on youth of tobacco and alcohol advertising. They conducted community surveys and circulated a petition in favor of the ordinance.
The Coalition also conducted research on the opposition and realized that the alcohol and tobacco companies’ main argument centered on freedom of speech. The Coalition used this argument to its advantage, urging the people most affected by tobacco advertisements to speak out. First, the Coalition organized youth from the community to talk to Council members about the billboards and advertisements in their community. Second, it recruited parents to talk about the contradiction between what the advertisements were promoting and what parents were telling their children about the dangers of smoking and drinking. Finally, the Coalition provided policy makers with information on the legal ways to restrict tobacco and alcohol advertising.
In honor of the large Hispanic community in the county, the Coalition planned a march and a press conference for the Mexican holiday El Dia de los Muertos, which honors the dead. Coalition members sent out press releases, called media outlets, and provided interviews about the deaths caused by tobacco and alcohol.
In addition, every time the City Council or a subcommittee held an important meeting or hearing, the Coalition held a press conference at City Hall. It made sure always to have parents and youth on hand to speak to the media about the impact of the advertisements and the importance of passing the city ordinance .
The Los Angeles City Council passed the ordinance restricting alcohol and tobacco billboard and storefront advertising in September 1998, and it took effect in October 1999. This success was largely due to the efforts of the Los Angeles County Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Policy Coalition. The Coalition involved a wide variety of individuals and businesses in its effort and utilized several channels to get its message to the City Council and the general public. Through its efforts, the Coalition demonstrated that a community that comes together and stands up for its beliefs can affect change.
 Institute of Medicine (2007). Ending the tobacco problem: A blueprint for the nation. Institute of Medicine, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.
 Lorillard Tobacco Company (2007). Lorillard Tobacco Company: Youth Smoking Prevention Web Page. Available athttp://www.lorillard.com/index.php?id=5 and Philip Morris USA (2006) Youth Smoking Prevention: Grant Programs,
and Tobacco Free Kids (2005). A long history of empty promises: The cigarette companies’ ineffective youth anti-smoking programs. Web Page Available at
. Gallegos, B. (1999) Chasing the frogs and camels out of Los Angeles: The movement to limit alcohol and tobacco billboards San Rafael, CA. Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems
 Media Advocacy Case Study, Available athttp://captus.samhsa.gov/southwest/documents/MediaAdvocacyCaseStudy.doc