Curb those wily tobacco ads

Published: Saturday, June 2 2007 12:04 a.m. MDT

Tobacco ads are like mildew. You just think you have the stuff under control and it crops up again out of nowhere. For tobacco, the latest outbreak is coming in colorful, attractive ads in the "big slicks" — trendy, top-end magazines like Vogue, Glamour and Harper's Bazaar. The ads are sandwiched in among features on beauty, style and health to give off the aroma of healthy living.

The truth is, they stink.

A grass-roots anti-tobacco group has targeted the ads for making tobacco use look upbeat and stylish for young women, especially.

Given the studies and hard science behind the claims that tobacco causes cancer, heart disease and numerous other ailments, one has to wonder why the "hip" set doesn't seem to get the picture. Tobacco ads are banned in European publications. A law — continent wide — keeps tobacco companies from promoting their poisons where young people may fall prey to them.

Some claim that the ads tend to stick to fashion magazines because models and other weight-conscious people use smoking as a way to control their weight. It's part of the culture. The message is clear: In some segments of society, it is better to be dead than to be a little bit heavy. It is especially jarring to find a fashion magazine running an ad for cigarettes next to a feature about preventing cancer.

The move to keep the stylish ads out of the hands of teens comes on the heels of a move to give any movie that features smoking an automatic R rating. Actors always have had a penchant for using cigarettes to develop a character or set a mood. Instead of buying cigarettes, we suggest buying better acting lessons.

The sad thing is there is still such a market for tobacco, given the evidence of the damage it can do.

Education helps. But you can't teach common sense. And the current crop of fashion magazines serves as exhibit A.

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