Starting in 1995, 46 states filed suit against the tobacco industry to hold them accountable for the financial burden they placed on the government with their deadly products. The government was footing the Medicaid bill of people that were sick or dying after years of using tobacco products. The Master Settlement Agreement became the largest class-lawsuit in US history and the tobacco industry, knowing they were backed in to a corner, paid hundreds of billions in restitution to the states. Riding upon the momentum, the Agreement also forced the industry to reshape the way they market to youth.
Thanks to the Agreement, the industry is no longer able to market their products with cartoon characters, sponsor concerts or sports events, or advertise on public transit, arcades, malls, arenas, stadiums, or billboards. Gone are the days of Joe Camel and his rebellious, devil-may-care expression and slick sunglasses. Fred Flinstone picking up his favorite pack of Winstons will never be seen in commercial breaks again. This cut back on blatant tobacco advertising that used to surround kids will enable them to grow up in a world where tobacco use is not widely promoted and not seen as normal.
The tobacco industry has responded to this restricted marketing by aggressively pursuing other advertising tactics. Advertising in Indiana jumped from $240 million to $284 million from 1998 to 2014. They have put more money in to point-of-sale marketing in tobacco retail shops, coupons, sweepstakes, brand loyalty programs, product placement in movies, and price promotions. The Master Settlement Agreement only goes so far to protect kids from tobacco’s lure- it’s time for parents to pick up the slack. Parents are crucial helping children understand this bombardment of advertising so they can make healthy decisions. It’s never too late or too early to talk to your kids about tobacco. Click here to read a guide by KidsHealth about how to talk to any age about tobacco use. Start the conversation with your child before the tobacco industry does.