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Review: Ads Cost Tobacco Industry

Raeburn, P. (1993, January 18). Study: Ads Cost Tobacco Industry $1.1b. The Boston Globe.


(Download Ads Cost Tobacco overview as a PDF)

  • Pressure from the Surgeon General and the medical establishment produced a 1980s decline in cigarette consumption of 46 million packs per year.
  • A voter initiative in California (passed by referendum in 1988) and the resulting $28 million campaign of anti-smoking ads (from April 1990 to September 1991) paralleled the fall in cigarette consumption to 164 million packs per year.
  • When the campaign was suspended in the fall of 1991, the decline in cigarette consumption returned to only 19 million packs per year.
  • In addition to the ad campaign which “depicted the tobacco industry as greedy and coldhearted,” the voter referendum passed by California in 1988 “increased cigarette taxes by 25 cents per pack and required that 20 percent of the tax money be used for smoking cessation programs.”
  • Over a three and a half year period after the passing of this referendum, the “decline in cigarette sales cost the tobacco industry $1.1 billion.”
  • This study by a Dr. Stanton A. Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, was presented on January 17th, 1993 to an American Heart Association conference on the prevention of heart disease.

Dr. Thomas E. Novotny of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Professor Glantz affirmed the findings of the above study:

  • Compared the California campaign to Nevada’s.
  • Found Nevada adopted a 25-cent-per-pack tax increase with no ad campaign.
  • Found no significant change in Nevada’s smoking rates.
  • Concluded, according to Novotny: “The media campaign had the most immediate impact on behavior.”

When the anti-smoking ads were suspended in California after a few months, the American Lung Association sued the California state health department “arguing that the referendum required the anti-smoking program. As a result…a judge has ordered the health department to resume the campaign as of February 1993.”

Notes Glantz, “The amount of time it took them to get it back on the air is unconscionable. California had devised a vaccine to prevent smoking, and they weren’t using it.”

Other states (including Massachusetts) are considering such referendums and programs.

Questions for Reflections and Discussion

  1. What impresses or disturbs you most about this article?
  2. How do economics, politics, and the behavioral sciences interact in this article?
  3. Specifically, how are different types of young people affected by what is reported?
  4. Where do you fit in this issue? How should you deal with potential and current smoking teenagers?


  • Smoking continues to be a risk factor among young people. It is proven to be dangerous to their physical health and is a predictor of later abuse of harder drugs. It may also reinforce anti-social attitudes and of a lack of concern for personal well-being.
  • Young people are susceptible to advertising. It is a powerful and subtle influence on their values, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • The most powerful preventive measures include strong, available role models and positive peer support complemented by positive self-esteem and prospects for future success in life. Parents, teachers, and youth leaders can all contribute to the prevention and treatment of nicotine abuse.

Dean Borgman
© 2019 CYS

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