Online Program

They're still after our kids: Tobacco industry use of “youth smoking prevention” programs emphasizing personal responsibility to shift blame for addiction and disease to children and parents

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 2:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.

Lissy C. Friedman, JD, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA
Mark A. Gottlieb, JD, at Northeastern Univ. School of Law, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Boston, MA
The tobacco industry's “youth smoking prevention” (“YSP”) programs focus largely on assigning blame to parents and children for youth smoking by using personal responsibility rhetoric. This frames the issue around improving parental communication and youth self-esteem instead of focusing on tobacco industry marketing and targeting of youth. Moreover, by sponsoring YSP programs, the tobacco companies attempt to claim credit for being better corporate citizens than in the past, even though the industry is still conducting business as usual when it comes to marketing its products in a way that makes them attractive to youth. While various tobacco companies sponsored YSPs in the late 1990s and subsequently dropped them after activists pointed out their cynical purpose of promoting tobacco company image and subliminally marketing their products to youth, our latest study shows that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has persevered and expanded its own YSP, a middle school curriculum called Right Decisions Right Now. According to its corporate website, the curriculum is available now in 22,500 U.S. middle schools. We found that the curriculum was originally developed by a company that has sold its products to clients as “a marketing tool.” The curriculum discusses how kids and their parents should take personal responsibility for youth smoking, underplays the addictive properties of cigarettes and makes no mention of the industry's relentless youth marketing. This presentation will bring advocates up-to-date on the cigarette industry's YSP efforts and will describe how to combat these types of corporation social responsibility tactics through de-normalization and counter-marketing.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe to stakeholders the cigarette industry’s continued use of “youth smoking prevention” programs to improve the image of their industry and product and undermine tobacco control initiatives aimed at youth Explain to attendees how to detect how industry youth prevention rhetoric invoking personal responsibility shifts the blame for addiction and disease from the tobacco companies and their products to children who smoke and their parents as a way of avoiding litigation and tighter regulation Identify ways activists can use de-normalization efforts such as counter-marketing and civic action to eliminate these pernicious and cynical industry tactics and get them out of our schools.

Keyword(s): Tobacco Policy, Youth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have spent over a decade studying the tobacco industry's corporate malfeasance and its impact on the law and tobacco control policy. Recently my focus has been on the industry's use of corporate social responsibility rhetoric and tactics, including through the creation of "youth smoking prevention" programs, with an emphasis on personal responsibility messaging. I have published on these topics and given numerous oral and poster presentations on them at national public health conferences.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.