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From legitimate consumers to public relations pawns: the tobacco industry and young Australians
  1. S M Carter
  1. Correspondence to:
 Stacy M Carter
 School of Public Health, Room 128A Building A27, University of Sydney NSW 2006, Australia;


Objective: To document the Australian tobacco industry’s activities regarding youth smoking to support tobacco control.

Method: 492 industry documents from primary and secondary websites were abstracted and analysed.

Results: Australian legislation and rhetoric on youth and tobacco has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, from an unproblematic association of teenagers and smoking in the 1960s, through the industry’s aggressive attacks and denials in the 1980s, to the 1990s, when industry became newly compliant with “societal expectations” and youth became a dominant bargaining issue in the industry’s public relations strategy. The industry’s current policy is to simultaneously blame others for underage smoking, frame the industry as socially responsible via voluntary marketing codes, youth access programmes, and school education, and market actively to young adults.

Conclusions: The arbitrary distinction between 17 and 18 year olds is, particularly in Australia’s dark market, a liability for tobacco control and an opportunity for the industry, which is attempting to claim the high moral ground traditionally occupied by tobacco control on the youth issue. The current review of Australia’s Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act of 1992 should prohibit all forms of industry communication targeting young people, including retail access and schools programmes and below-the-line marketing. Tobacco control advocacy should highlight the industry’s attempts to use the youth issue in its own favour while laying the blame elsewhere.

  • Tobacco industry
  • youth
  • Australia
  • AAA, US Action Against Access
  • ITL, “It’s the Law”
  • NHMRC, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council
  • PMI, Philip Morris International
  • PML, Philip Morris (Australia) Limited
  • POS, point of sale
  • TIA, Tobacco Institute of Australia
  • WA, Western Australia
  • WRA, Worldwide Regulatory Affairs
  • YSP, youth smoking prevention

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  • * For local advocates and lawyers a highly detailed analysis is availablefrom

  • Gray N. Interview. Personal communication to Chapman S, Carter S, Bryan-Jones K. Sydney:2002 Nov 29.