Alcohol, Tobacco Products Aimed At Teens?

joose tilt sparks joe camel alcohol minors kids cigarettes CBS/AP

Peer pressure, catchy advertising, popular culture.

America's youth are inundated with visual appeals to drink and smoke, CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

While the alcohol and tobacco industries insist their products are aimed at adults, critics charge beverages like Sparks and colored tobacco products are tailor-made for teens. There are fruit-flavored cigars and energy drinks that are high-caffeine - and now, a new twist, up to 9 percent alcohol.

"Alcohol and caffeine are really double trouble when they're marketed to kids and when they create the illusion of alertness combined with the impairment of alcohol," said Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

It's not only the content that worries the critics - it's the marketing. From the names, Tilt, Sparks, Joose, to the colorful packaging and cartoon-like images.

"Well, they are influencing younger kids with all these flavors and that's not good," said student Maria Gomez. "When they get older, they might be addicted to these things."

And that is what concerns prosecutors of 27 states and the District of Columbia, who are accusing breweries of promoting products that are "highly attractive to underage youth."

Anheuser Busch refused CBS News interview requests. Miller says it will "fully cooperate with their investigation."

If the breweries don't comply, the attorneys general are threatening lawsuits. Meanwhile, an anti-smoking organization is pushing for tighter regulation of the tobacco industry.

"The sad truth is, a very heavy percentage of tobacco industry marketing is targeted directly at non-smoking adolescents," said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Myers heads Tobacco-Free Kids, which issued a damning report against companies like R.J. Reynolds. Eleven years ago, it was forced to drop its cartoon-like Joe Camel ads.

Now, a new controversy - the use of high fashion to sell its Camel brand. R.J. Reynolds insists it's targeting women, not teens.

"Despite what the colors look like, despite what the advertising says, the primary point is: it's illegal to sell tobacco products to minors in all 50 states," said David Howard of the R.J. Reynolds company.

But critics say the problem is not the law - it's the message, which can persuade teens to try drinking and smoking.
  • Randall Pinkston

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