UPI Focus: Tobacco leader confirms child targeting

By JEFFREY T. OTTENBACHER  |  Feb. 25, 1999
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AKRON, Ohio, Feb. 25 -- The president and CEO of the Liggett Group Inc., the manufacturer of Chesterfield and L&M cigarettes, says the nation's tobacco companies targeted young people in their advertising and promotional campaigns. Bennett LeBow testified today in the fourth day of a trial on a $2 billion lawsuit filed against the nation's major tobacco companies by more than 100 Ohio labor union health and benefit funds. The unions are asking a federal jury in Akron to allow their health and welfare funds to recover money paid to members for smoking-related illnesses. LeBow said: 'I believe the industry targeted young people with marketing campaigns like Joe Camel...(because) if you aren't selling to children, you'll have no business in 25 years. You'll have no customers left.' He said that is what happened to the Liggett Group, which produced two of the most popular brands of cigarettes during the 1940s and 1950s -- Chesterfield and L&M. LeBow said his company is the only tobacco company that has publicly linked cigarette smoking to illnesses such as lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. The Liggett group broke ranks with other tobacco companies in similar lawsuits and, under cross examination today, LeBow admitted his company had been dropped as a defendant from the union lawsuit in exchange for his testimony. Defense lawyers accused LeBow of not being concerned over anyone's health, but rather of being concerned for the health of his company. The defense lawyers accused LeBow of testifying for the plaintiffs to keep his company from having to pay any portion of a court-ordered settlement in the case.

He denied the accusation. During the trial's afternoon session, a University of California at San Diego professor and former employee of the Centers for Disease Control, John Pierce, discussed his research that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. His first paper in 1991 involved surveying 10,000 California residents during each of three years concerning tobacco advertising's influence on adolescents. Pierce, commenting on the 'Joe Camel' ad campaign, said, 'Kids saw Joe Camel, but nobody else did.' He said adults over 35 years of age didn't notice the ads, with the highest recognition occurring among 12 year olds. In another JAMA paper published in 1998, Pierce found a 34 percent increase in smoking among young people who had a favorite ad or promotional item. Pierce said his studies indicate more than 6,000 people under the age of 18 experiment with cigarettes each day, with more than 3,000 of them eventually becoming addicted and continuing smoking for between 15 and 20 years. Of those smokers, he said one-quarter will die from smoking- related diseases. ---

Copyright 1999 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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