Sample Task II Texts
Researchers calculate that
teenage smoking rates, after declining in the 1970’s and leveling off in
the 1980’s, have climbed sharply over the last five years. Although everything
from why the trend began to what might stop it is disputed, it adds up
to a huge heath problem for the country and a public relations disaster
for the tobacco industry.
Teenage smoking rates are
still lower than in the 1970’s, but they are rapidly increasing.
According to the most recent edition of the University of Michigan’s Monitoring
the Future Survey, last year the percentage of 12th graders who smoked
daily was up 20 percent from 1991. This annual study is widely followed
by tobacco researchers. The rate among 10th graders jumped 45 percent,
and the rate for 8th graders was up to 44 percent
between 1991 and 1996. At current smoking rates, five million people now
younger than 18 will eventually die of tobacco-related illnesses, according
to the most recen projections from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta. Rising youth smoking rates have been cited by the
Food and Drug Administration and President Clinton as evidence that the
industry is marketing its products to youths and should be restricted
by the F.D.A The rates are also fueling demands in many states and nationally
for higher taxes on tobacco, based on research showing that price increases
typically discourage teenage smokers.
Just what has caused
the teenage smoking rate to rise so sharply is hotly debated. The Tobacco
industry says the increase is due to a broad range of social forces.
Industry officials note that other kinds of risking-taking among
teenagers, especially the use of marijuana and other drugs, have risen
more sharply than tobacco use. The industry also cites teenagers’
naturally rebellious reaction to the increasing efforts to stop them from
Critics of the tobacco industry
agree that rebelliousness and other forces are at work. But they
say the industry itself is the most important factor. The industry’s
spending on domestic advertising and promotions soared from $361 million
in 1970, to $4.83 billion in 1994, a 250 percent increase after adjusting
for inflation, according to the latest data published by the Federal
Just how that huge pie has
been divided is a secret closely guarded not only from critics but even
among companies in the industry. Much of the money
goes into promotions to encourage retailers to run sales or to display
particular brands and signs more prominently. Tobacco companies say
they have adopted practices to focus their messages on adults, like requiring
that all models be-and look-older than 25.
like John Pierce, head of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University
of California at San Diego, say it is most telling that spending
rose most rapidly in the 1980’s, when the decline in youth smoking was
halted. They also point to research showing that children have been
strongly attracted to some of the biggest marketing campaigns, notably
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco’s use of the ever-hip Joe Camel and Philip
Morris’ use of the rugged Marlboro man and the Marlboro Adventure Team,
a merchandise promotion.
The surge in teenage smoking
in the 1990’s coincided with a sharp expansion by both Reynolds and Philip
Morris in giveaways of items like T-shirts in return for coupons accumulated
by buying their cigarettes. Research showed that the
companies had limited success in preventing distribution of the merchandise
to children-30 percent of teenage smokers have it- and that the items are
just as appealing to teenagers as to adults.
Tobacco companies say critics
grossly exaggerate the effects of their marketing. They point out
that teenage smoking is also rising in countries where most forms of advertising
have been banned. The latest indicator of the distance between the
two sides is Philip Morris’ creation of a record company-Woman Thing
Music-to promote its Virginia Slims brand. The company will be selling
bargain-priced compact disks by its female artists along with its cigarettes.
Its first artist, Martha Byrne, a nonsmoking actress from the soap opera
As the World Turns, is on a concert tour. She is appearing
in venuses where only those older than 21 are allowed.
Making matters worse, some
critics say, is that Hollywood’s long love affair with smoking seems to
be heating up. Cigars are being widely used to symbolize success
in movies like The Associate, with Whoopi Goldberg. And even though
today’s stars are not inseparable from their cigarettes the way Humphrey
Bogart, Bette Davis, and James Dean were, actors who show up puffing on
cigarettes include John Travolta and Uma Thurman as anti-heroes in Pulp
Fiction, and Winona Ryder as a Generation X drifter in Reality Bites.
Leonardo DeCaprio went so far as to light up as Romeo in a last year’s
updated Romeo and Juliet.
Whether smoking in films
contributes to the teenage trend or simply picks up on it is one of many
questions. Teenagers say that movie and music stars do shape their
sense of what is “cool” and that a desire to be cool is often a reason
the youngest smokers first try cigarettes. But many researchers doubt
that an effect can be reliably measured.
Moreover, high school students who smoke regularly say it is so common
that no one thinks of it as cool. Some concede that they enjoy doing
something forbidden, but more often they cite a desire to relieve stress
or to stay thin, the taste, or simply the need to fill time as reasons
they kept smoking to the point of becoming addicted. Many, like David
Bernt of Oak Park, agree with the industry’s contention that its marketing
had nothing to do with the decision to smoke but that it does influence
brand choice. “If I buy anything but Camel, it feels like I wasted money
because I collect Camel cash,” he said, referring to the coupons that can
be redeemed for Camel merchandise.
The increased smoking rates
since 1991 are expected to translate into tens of thousands of additional
early deaths because one out of three teenage smokers is expected to develop
fatal tobacco-related illnesses. About 46,000 more smokers is expected
to develop fatal tobacco-related illnesses. About 46,000 more 8th
graders are smoking at least half a pack a day than would have been smoking
had the rate remained at its 1991 level, and 250,000 more have smoked
within the last 30 days than would have at the 1991 rate, judging from
the application of census data to results from the Monitoring the Future
surveys. And because of the rising smoking rate since 1991,
an extra 110,000 10th graders are half-a-pack-a-day smokers, and nearly
366,000 more of them have smoked in the last 30 days.