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Tobacco Billboard Ban A Sign of Changing Times

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SMITHFIELD — Many of us remember cigarette commercials on television. Many remember newscasts sponsored by tobacco companies, complete with the anchor smoking a cigarette. Times have changed.

Thursday, they change again as the last tobacco company billboards are peeled off signs around the country.

As part of the national tobacco settlement between Attorneys General and cigarette companies, the signs must come down by midnight Thursday.

Smoker Kelly Tedder says the agreement to stop billboard advertising is just the latest of many assaults on people who choose to smoke.

Tedder has been smoking for 5 years and does not believe a lack of advertising will keep people from lighting up.

"I don't think it will have any effect whatsoever, because if people are going to smoke, they are already smoking and they are not looking for signs," she says. "They know the stores sell them and that the cigarettes are there."

Billboard companies say most of the name brand cigarette signs have been down for weeks.

Several store owners WRAL talked to do not expect fallout. They say typically, a smoker sticks to their favorite brands and no amount of advertising will effect that. Joyce Daughtry says cigarettes sales are not slowing down at her store.

We'll have to wait and see if the ban on billboards will have an effect on teenage smoking, but Dr. Stan Watson says the ban is a step in the right direction.

"I'm concerned about the way advertising plays, particularly on the young smokers," says Watson. "I certainly think people have a right to choose their behaviors and their habits, but I think the medical evidence in indisputable, that there is a lot of harm in cigarette smoking."

The billboard signs being removed are ones that show brand name cigarettes. The ads will be replaced with anti-smoking messages until the billboard leases run out.


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