Tobacco capitalists targeted youth

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Dec 12 10:09:04 PST 1998

Bonding, idenifying, competing, taking risks, and socialising, often with the aid of drugs of recreation, are all highly complex psychosocial processes, but they are now not exactly a capitalism-free zone of subtle purely personal choices.

This information came to light in October in the action by Washington state against the tobacco industry:

Paul Luvera, a private lawyer hired by the state for its case, displayed a 1979 Philip Morris document analyzing its demographics. The company concluded its Marlboro brand "dominates in the 17 and younger age category, capturing over 50 percent of this market."

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. had wished to challenge this domination of the youth market and designed a marketing strategy in the mid-1970s to try to increase its share, according to another secret document.

A January 1975 R.J. Reynolds memorandum, stamped secret, described the goals of a recommendation to expand the company's "Meet the Turk" ad campaign to increase its share of the young adult market, which it defined as the 14 to 24 age group.

R.J. Reynolds' Camel Filter brand was smoked primarily by people over 35, the memo said, and increasing its popularity among young smokers was key because they "represent tomorrow's cigarette business."

"While 'Meet the Turk' is designed to shift the brand's age profile to the younger age group, this won't come overnight. Patience, persistence and consistency will be needed," the memo said.

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