THE TUG OF WAR continues, with companies that promote cigarettes and alcohol on one side and community leaders and government officials on the other.
The Tobacco Institute of Washington, D.C., last month announced plans to launch a campaign to discourage young people from smoking. The campaign includes ads in several national magazines, a booklet for parents and signs in stores to remind retailers and customers that it is illegal for minors to purchase cigarettes.
But the institute's public relations push is still not enough, according to national and local officials.
Scott D. Ballin, spokesman for the Coalition on Smoking and Health and the American Heart Association, maintains the industry trots out these same measures each time Congress threatens stricter regulations.
Locally, Masten Councilman David A. Collins once again has taken on the industry, last week proposing a total ban on cigarette vending machines within the Buffalo city limits. The measure was taken up by the Council's Legislative Committee and will be discussed by the full Council Wednesday. In April Collins proposed a ban on alcohol and tobacco billboards within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, community centers and sports facilities used by young people.
Eliminating vending machines means that cigarette purchases would have to be supervised by store clerks who could ask for proof of age.
"A lot of businesses have not been vigilant in their supervision of tobacco-dispensing equipment," said Collins, who said he has seen store owners open cigarette packs to sell them to youngsters for 10 cents apiece.
"We send messages to youth that (smoking) is dangerous, then we make it accessible to them," said Collins, a reformed smoker.
He also objects to billboards, pervasive in the inner city, that relate sex, sophistication and power with smoking and drinking alcohol. Collins said he will introduce legislation in January or February to widen the distance between billboards that advertise alcohol and tobacco.
Nationally, Congress is looking at legislation that would cut out that type of advertising, Ballin said. It also could outlaw cigarette machines, prohibit free samples of cigarettes, eliminate sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies and give the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate labeling, testing and distribution of tobacco products, he said. Tobacco currently is an unregulated industry, he said.
"The bottom line is what they have announced is really nothing new," Ballin said. "Whenever they are faced with legislation in Congress, they come up with a campaign about being responsive."
The Tobacco Institute's ads aimed at helping parents to teach their children to say no to cigarettes will appear in magazines such as Ebony, People, TV Guide and Family Circle and could reach about 198.2 million people. The ads will contain order forms for the parental guide book. The ads began Dec. 11 and could run beyond their 1991 schedule, said Thomas Lauria, spokesman for the institute.
"The campaign will be visible to virtually everyone in Western New York," said Walter Merryman, vice president of the institute. "Also, every retailer who sells cigarettes will get materials to put in their stores."
"It's the Law" warning signs will appear in stores by February.
The New York Association of Convenience Stores has thrown its weight behind the promotion. Although it encourages its 1,700 retail outlets and 360 corporate and associate members to display the signs, monitor vending machines and ask young shoppers for identification, it cannot force members to join in or punish those who don't, said Richard Warrender, president and chief executive officer of the association.
On average, cigarettes account for 20 percent of a convenience store's inside sales. But Warrender maintains that "our industry as a whole is not out to sell cigarettes to minors."
Domestically, the tobacco industry takes in $43 billion, Lauria said. About 19 percent of the country's 55 million smokers are 13- to 18-year-olds. Thirty percent of the adult population smokes, Merryman said.
Merryman maintains that banning tobacco advertising will not reduce the number of smokers. Fifteen countries have banned the advertising without any significant decrease in the number of teen smokers, he said.
"What we're trying to do is address things that will really make a difference, rather than just window dressing," Merryman said.
Penn Advertising, which owns 1,300 billboards in the Buffalo area, this summer set up the Outdoor Advertising Advisory Committee of Western New York to set voluntary standards for outdoor ads.
The committee is a mixed bag of 14 advertising industry leaders, clergy, police officers and a legislative aide to the Common Council. The panel's duties will be passed on to the Buffalo Ad Council, which currently is being formed.
Penn Advertising thus far has decided to adopt standards set by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America that would: prohibit cigarette and alcohol billboards within 500 feet of schools, churches and hospitals; place voluntary limits on the number of ads in an area for products not meant for minors, and encourage greater diversity of advertised goods and services in all markets.