A recent report issued by the American Lung Association gives the State of Virginia a "D" for its youth smoking prevention efforts. The state of Maryland received a similar poor grade.
Preventing youth smoking has long been an urgent topic for public health authorities, since most smokers start by the age of 18. But the policies that have emerged from that concern have been questionable. For example, many cities have enacted laws making it illegal for kids to buy or possess tobacco. Under these laws, kids caught smoking are given tickets and sentenced to tobacco education classes. While the information in these classes is unquestionably important, kids simply are not receptive to it when they are forced to attend as punishment. Worse, youth possession laws reinforce the idea that cigarettes are an "adults only" product, which just enhances the attractiveness of smoking to youth. Philip Morris has long understood this dynamic, as evidenced by its 1991 Archetype Project, in which it sought to exploit youngsters' longings for adulthood and tendencies toward rebelliousness to make them want cigarettes more. The person PM appointed to head up its Archetype Project, Carolyn C. Levy, Ph.D., was a specialist in smoker psychology, nicotine addiction and marketing, and was especially knowledgeable about marketing the Marlboro brand. Levy wrote in a 1981 PM report,
"Today's teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer...The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to Philip Morris."
Dr. Levy was the person PM assigned to head its "Youth Smoking Prevention" department when it was first formed in 1999.