For years, critics have contended that tobacco ads are aimed directly at young people. They've argued that marketing and advertising executives should start accepting responsibility for tempting children and teens to smoke.
The critics, of course, are right. And now, finally, a handful of advertising executives are heeding the call. On Wednesday, a group called the Initiative on Tobacco Marketing and Children, comprised of advertising executives from small and mid-sized agencies, unveiled a new ad campaign designed to spark debate within the industry. Its slogan: "We can't close their eyes. Can we open ours?"
In addition to the new campaign, members of the group plan to survey advertising and marketing executives for their views on tobacco marketing and children. They'll also hold forums on the issue over the next few months. Their goal: to persuade the ad industry to develop voluntary guidelines to stop marketing cigarettes to young people.
In part, the new Initiative on Tobacco Marketing and Children comes in response to regulations recently issued by the federal Food and Drug Administration, which would restrict tobacco advertising and promotions that reach children. Ad industry trade groups have sued to block the regulations, saying they would violate First Amendment guarantees for advertising legal products.
Whether the proposal for voluntary guidelines will be better received remains to be seen. So far, the group lists no supporters from any of the top 50 advertising agencies in the US. But undoubtedly the Initiative on Tobacco Marketing and Children will succeed in sparking some much-needed discussion about the marketing methods currently being used. It will, we hope, help open the ad industry's eyes.