Congress told of cigarette ad plan aimed at youth

Congress is getting a rare, inside look at cigarette advertising strategy related to young smokers. In recent testimony before Congress on proposed legislation on cigarette advertising, John F. Banzhaf III, executive director and chief counsel of Action on Smoking and Health, a Washington-based antismoking group, made public part of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report he had obtained on cigarette advertising.

The document, marked ''confidential,'' cites excerpts from the marketing strategies of various tobacco companies which, according to Mr. Banzhaf, show that ''the tobacco industry actively encourages smoking by young people and actively designs campaigns to encourage them to begin smoking.''

The confidential section, based partly on subpoenaed material, includes excerpts from a 1975 report by a marketing and research firm done for Ted Bates Advertising, one of the agencies for Brown and Williamson (B&W), a major tobacco company. The research report suggests that ''an attempt to reach young smokers, starters, should be based, among others, on the following major parameters:

''Present the cigarette as one of a few initiations into the adult world.

''Present the cigarette as part of the illicit pleasure category of products and activities.

''To the best of your ability (considering some legal constraints), relate the cigarette to 'pot (marijuana),' wine, beer, sex, etc.

''Don't communicate health or health-related points.''

According to the FTC report, ''B&W adopted many of the ideas contained in this report in the development of a Viceroy (cigarette) advertising campaign.'' B&W documents also show, the FTC report says, that the company used the advice on attracting young ''starters'' by featuring young adult models in ads depicting a ''free and easy, hedonistic life style.''

William Toohey Jr., a spokesman for the Tobacco Institute, which represents major tobacco companies, dismisses the FTC report as a ''fanciful document.'' The institute's 76 pages of ''comments'' on the report do not include specific rebuttals of the confidential section of the FTC report.

Asked about the report, Tom Humber, B&W's assistant director of corporate affairs, said flatly: ''We don't advertise to teens.'' He said he would send a written statement with further comments, including comments on the Viceroy campaign. At the time of this writing, no statement had been received.

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