Several of the nation's major medical organizations yesterday called on Congress to ban all advertisement and promotion of tobacco products.
Representatives of groups including the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society told the House subcommittee on health and the environment that public health demands such a ban and that a recent Supreme Court decision cleared the way for legislative action.
Tobacco and advertising industry officials have argued against attempts to limit or ban advertising and promotion of tobacco products, defending their product pitches as free speech protected by the Constitution.
The tobacco industry argues that tobacco advertisements are not aimed at recruiting new tobacco users. Instead, the industry claims the ads are aimed at convincing tobacco users to switch brands.
"The Supreme Court settled that issue once and for all," said Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.), the sponsor of the legislation.
On July 1, the Supreme Court upheld a ban on advertisements for casino gambling in Puerto Rico, saying that products and activities such as cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and prostitution are not themselves constitutionally protectedand therefore can be banned or regulated in ways including restrictions on advertising and promotion.
The Association of National Advertisers Inc. and the American Advertising Federation yesterday released statements opposing any ban on tobacco advertising.
Witnesses at yesterday's hearing who spoke in favor of banning advertising included health professionals, marketing specialists, the daughter of actor Yul Brynner -- who died last year from cancer -- and Bob Keeshan, who is better known as Captain Kangaroo.
The panel did not hear from Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who earlier this week was ordered by White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan not to testify in favor of the legislation, as he had planned. Instead, Koop is scheduled to appear at another hearing on Aug. 1, accompanied by representatives of the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) has invited Regan to appear before the panel to explain the restrictions placed on Koop.
Rep. James H. Scheuer (D-N.Y.), a member of the subcommittee, criticized the order to stop Koop from testifying. "To put a gag rule on Everett Koop and muzzle his right to free speech is a classic example of chutzpah," he said.
Proponents of the ban on tobacco-product advertising and promotion said yesterday that the tobacco and advertising industries are targeting children and adolescents because new smokers typically are recruited when they are young. "Currently, 60 percent of smokers will have started by the age 13 to 14," said Ronald M. Davis, a doctor who testified on behalf of the American Medical Association.
"Young people are targeted, despite industry denials, and are told, over and over again, that smoking is healthy, sexy and the fast road to growing up," Keeshan said.
Several witnesses as well as members of the subcommittee called tobacco the nation's most heavily advertised consumer product, noting that more than $2 billion a year is spent advertising and promoting tobacco products and that advertising contributes heavily to the revenue of newspapers, magazines and billboard companies. Half of the billboards nationwide advertise tobacco products, several witnesses said.
Charles A. LeMaister, president of the American Cancer Society and president of the M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston, disputed industry arguments that advertising is aimed at convincing those who already smoke to switch brands rather than at recruiting new smokers. He said that only about 10 percent of all smokers switch brands in a given year. At the same time, "350,000 die and 1 million quit," he said. "Just to maintain their market, they must find 1.4 million new smokers a year."
Rep. Fortney H. Stark (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) testified in favor of legislation they have introduced to end the deduction of advertising expenses incurred by tobacco companies. Bradley also expressed scepticism ontobacco companies' claims about their goals in advertising.
"Tobacco companies have been telling us for years that tobacco doesn't cause cancer," he said. "Now they're telling us tobacco ads don't cause smoking."