A few months ago, I chastised Sports Illustrated for printing a bunch of photos of some Spanish golfer smoking cigars (I don’t do golf, hell if I remember the guy’s name, but he’s apparently a big character on the Senior PGA Tour).
SI Golf pushed it even further this month, with a photo of a couple of golfing equipment builders smoking on its cover. Jesus Christ, who still puts smoking photos on their magazine covers? I get it that it’s cigars, not cigarettes, but you can’t even smoke a cigar anymore in a Marvel movie (true!).
SI, a magazine that is read by a lot of teens and young adults, also takes a lot of advertising for cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes. They also will take ads for the COPD Foundation and the lung cancer awareness. I really think SI is one of the worst magazines I’ve seen out there for continuing to promote tobacco products and for giving Big Tobacco a venue for its advertising.
I have no problem with tobacco ads in adult magazines like Playboy or Penthouse, but SI is read by all ages. And most magazines for all ages have stopped taking tobacco ads (In fact, I helped convince Discover magazine to stop taking American Spirit ads … God’s honest truth.).
This has been for some time been a burr up my butt, but actually putting smoking on their cover really ticks me off. You guys need to guy a clue. Seriously. Knock it off with the promoting smoking and promoting tobacco products, you shills.
My initial reaction when my issue of SI Golf arrived in the mail today was, “WTH!?” (Actually, something stronger than that, but I try to keep this a family blog.)
On the cover is a Spanish PGA golfer named Miguel Angel Jimenez, smoking a cigar, with the headline, “Smokin’.” The article then features several photos of him smoking.
Well, apparently, it turns out that cigars are a big part of this golfer’s persona. He has been known to smoke cigars while actually competing in tournaments.
Now, the article addresses his cigar habit, and his love of whiskey, in the opening paragraph:
“I come from a different generation. And I’m not a hypocrite. I don’t hide the way I am. If I want to have a drink, I have a drink. Why shouldn’t I? Is it illegal to drink alcohol? Is tobacco illegal? So why should I care if people see me smoking? I do what I do out in the open. If people have a problem with that, they can their tongue up their ass and let the rest of us do what we want to do.”
OK, I get that. The guy’s got a “don’t give a shit … I go my own way” attitude. Fine. Did SI have to put a photo of him puffing away on their cover to make this point? NO! Did they have to post six — count ’em, six — other photos of him smoking to make their point? NO. John Daly smoked like a chimney, I don’t ever remember an SI cover of him smoking.
I’m not mad at the golfer, I’m mad at SI for continuing to promote smoking (SI has a long history of taking ads for chew, cigarettes and e-cigarettes). It’s a track record with these guys at this point.
This made my head explode. Sports Illustrated’s policies on tobacco advertising are starting to make my head explode.
We all know SI takes tobacco advertising — a LOT of tobacco advertising. Not only do you find cigarette ads in nearly every issue, you will also find chewing tobacco ads and ads for Blu e-cigarettes. Usually full-page.
SI’s insistence on continuing to take tobacco advertising has drawn the ire of more than a few anti-tobacco advocates. SI is a magazine that is read by a lot of teenagers (I started reading it in my teens).
Well, I usually don’t react to the ominpresent tobacco and e-cig ads in SI, but this one really took the cake. In the April 20th edition of the magazine, there is an ad for Natural American Spirit cigarettes on page 21 (Though the brand likes to play up its Native American roots, these aren’t actually Native American cigarettes, it’s a brand that been owned for 15 years by Reynolds American, the same conglomerate that owns RJ Reynolds.).
Natural American Spirit cigarettes ads are especially odious because the brand markets itself as being “organic” and “natural” and “additive-free.” Their ads are complete B.S. These guys have been reamed over the coals by the Department of Justice for not-so-subtly claiming that by somehow being “natural,” their cigarettes were more healthy than other brands. Reynolds is now required to add onto these ads these disclaimers: “Organic tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette” and “No additives in our tobacco does NOT mean a safer cigarette.”
Anyway, on page 86 is a full-page ad for cigars and then on page 119, the killer, another full-pagead for an organization called “Stand up to Cancer,” with a testimonial from actor Tony Goldwyn (he was the bad guy in “Ghost,” remember that movie?), who lost his mother to lung cancer. The ad focuses on the advances being made today to combat lung cancer: “My mom didn’t have many options. Today’s lung cancer patients do.”
I suppose I should give SI some modicum of credit for not being so insensitive as to put the Natural American Spirit ad on the facing page from the ad about lung cancer. But, still my head went “BAM!”
Here you have a product that is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer — by a MILE — being advertised on page(s) 21 and 86, and then an ad about the cost of lung cancer on page 119. The whole thing just felt shameless to me by Sports Illustrated. C’mon, man, the time has long passed for that magazine to simply say “no” to cigarette advertising. Newspapers rarely, if ever take cigarette ads (contrary to public belief, there’s no law against it, newspapers just simply as a rule don’t take cigarette ads), and many, many magazines refuse to take cigarette ads. Several years ago, I got really mad at Discover magazine for having a Natural American Spirit ad, and that magazine is absolutely directed at kids, moreso than SI. I got a nice letter from them apologizing and promising they would no longer take tobacco ads (I think I got a free subscription for a year out of the deal, too. It must have been a persuasive letter.).
Magazines are split on taking tobacco advertising; quite a few refuse while others continue to take it. Very few newspapers will take tobacco advertising (believe it or not, while tobacco advertising is banned on television, there is no law against ads in newspapers; newspapers just don’t take national tobacco ads.).
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids specifically targeted SI because it’s a magazine read by a lot of kids and teens. SI’s latest Swimsuit Issue contained two cigarette ads, three smokeless tobacco ads and two ads for e-cigarettes. (I can attest to the e-cig ads because it my head exploded when I saw a Blu e-cig advertisement in SI featuring its brand on a woman’s bikini bottom.)
According to Tobacco-Free Kids, SI has more than 1.6 million teen readers.
From the group’s website:
As young readers browse through the magazine, they’ll get messages that cigarettes are fun, chewing tobacco makes you a real man and e-cigarettes are the cool new thing. Most of all, these ads mask the reality of deadly and addictive tobacco products by associating them with sex, glamour and sports, as the tobacco companies have long done.
Unfortunately, Sports Illustrated gives tobacco companies access to its youth readers on a weekly basis.
The magazine’s Sportsman of the Year issue in December was another major offender, with five tobacco ads (two for smokeless tobacco, two for e-cigarettes and one for Newport cigarettes). Featuring World Series pitching hero Madison Bumgarner on the cover, it provided tobacco companies another opportunity to link smokeless tobacco with baseball.
Tobacco-Free Kids also points out the irony of featuring smokeless tobacco ads in the Madison Bumgarner edition as in the past year, one baseball legend, Tony Gwynn, died of salivary gland cancer after a lifetime of chewing and another famous ballplayer, Curt Schilling, battled oral cancer after a lifetime of chewing.
I hope SI dumps the tobacco (and e-cig) ads eventually, but I won’t hold my breath .. and here’s why. SI just got read of its entire photography department and will only use freelancers from now on in order to cut costs. The publishing industry as a whole is hurting, partly because of the cost of paper, partly because it’s never recovered from the recession of 2008, but mostly because more and more people are going to the Internet to get their news.
As an aside, one of my biggest triumphs in my personal anti-tobacco campaign was I helped get tobacco advertising removed from Discover magazine. Years ago, I used to subscribe to it, and I was fairly pissed off when i saw a full-page ad in Discover for American Spirit cigarettes. While SI is read by a lot of teens, Discover is a magazine popular with both teens and preteens. I pointed this out to Discover. I got a free subscription out of it and an apology and a promise that they were pulling all the tobacco ads from now on (I’m sure many more people than me complained about the cigarette ad in the magazine.).