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Teenagers Tend To Prefer Smoking Advertised Brands, C.D.C. Finds

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Teenagers appear to prefer smoking those brands of cigarettes that have the most aggressive marketing campaigns, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control concludes in a report.

According to the report, the vast majority of teenagers who smoke purchase only three brands of cigarettes--Marlboro, Newport, and Camel. In contrast, adult smoking preferences are not nearly as concentrated, the report, released this month, says.

Because the brands purchased by teenagers "are among the most heavily advertised cigarette brands in the United States during 1990,'' the report says, "these data suggest that tobacco advertising may influence teenagers in their choice of brands.''

In recent years, health advocates have increasingly charged that the tobacco industry targets underage smokers in its advertisements. Federal health officials estimate that about half of all adult smokers became regular smokers by their 18th birthday, and many health experts believe that these ads persuade young people to start smoking.

Camel's 'Old Joe'

Earlier this month, U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello and the American Medical Association demanded that the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company stop using a cartoon camel in its advertisements for Camel cigarettes because, they said, the character specifically appeals to children.

Dr. Novello cited as evidence a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that 6-year-olds were as familiar with the "Old Joe'' character as they were with Mickey Mouse.

The tobacco industry has consistently denied targeting young people in its ads, saying that the goal of its marketing efforts is to persuade adult smokers to switch brands.

The C.D.C. based its conclusions on the results of a national survey of teenagers and a survey in 10 communities that compared the smoking patterns of adults and 9th graders who are regular smokers. In the latter study, 42.5 of the students said they smoked Marlboros, 29.7 percent said they smoked Camels, and 20 percent said they smoked Newports.

Among adults, Marlboro was also the most popular brand, but only 23.6 percent said they smoked it regularly. The next most popular brands, in descending order, were Winston, Salem, and Camel.

The report says young people would be less exposed to tobacco advertising if print ads were limited to written text and a picture of the product, and if tobacco companies were forbidden to sponsor sporting events.

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