Advocacy Groups Accuse Marlboro of Targeting Teens

Advocacy Groups Accuse Marlboro of Targeting Teens

By Bryan Le 03/18/14

A new report by Corporate Accountability International accuses Phillip Morris of purposely targeting teenagers in countries that do not have advertising restrictions.

Image: 
Be dead from lung cancer. Photo via

A coalition of public health advocacy groups has published a report that accuses Marlboro of purposely targeting teenagers with a new ad campaign.

According to the report by Corporate Accountability International, Phillip Morris has undertaken a massive advertising effort - called Be Marlboro - outside the United States that includes time-tested teen-targeting tactics such as sponsoring big concerts and parties as well as putting up public outdoor ads featuring cool looking young people donned in beanies and hoodies hanging out or playing guitars.

According to Ad Age, more than $60 million of Phillp Morris' $7 billion advertising spending was spent on the Be Marlboro campaign.

"While tobacco companies claim publicly that they do not market to youth or design marketing campaigns that target them, a 2013 study conducted in low- and middle-income countries showed that 22% of five- and six-year-olds surveyed were able to correctly identify Marlboro cigarettes, the world's best-selling cigarette brand," the report said.

"Wherever there are holes in the marketing restrictions, the tobacco industry will use these loopholes and create campaigns accordingly," said John Stewart, the Challenge Big Tobacco campaign director at Corporate Accountability International.

But Phillip Morris countered the criticism by declaring they are well within their rights to advertise. "Complete bans or restrictive regulation limiting tobacco advertising are common in both developed and developing countries around the world today," Philip Morris said in a statement. "In those places where marketing and advertising is permitted, our campaigns are intended to inform current consumers of our brands in their choice and encourage smokers of competing brands to switch to our products."

This isn't Corporate Accountability International's first fight with big tobacco. In the 1990s, the group waged war alongside the American Medical Association and Bill Clinton to put R.J. Reynold's Joe Camel out of commission.