Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids slammed Sports Illustrated last week for continuing to take tobacco advertising.
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.).