Research has suggested that, worldwide, tobacco advertising plays a role in the number of people who start or stop smoking. This is not news for public health officials, who, in many nations, began fighting smoking-related illness by restricting tobacco advertising. A 1975 ban on tobacco advertising in Norway, for example, helped reduce long-term smoking prevalence in that nation by 9 percent [source: Willemsen].
Tobacco advertising in the U.S. came under heavy scrutiny in the late 1990s, when internal tobacco-industry memos suggested that companies may have been targeting potential new smokers -- young adults -- through the use of colorful, catchy ads with stylish cartoon characters, such as Joe Camel. After a series of major court rulings found that the companies bore responsibility for the effects of their products, a portion of the funding that once went into creating these ads was redirected to fund public health and smoking-cessation programs, including ad campaigns encouraging teens not to smoke.
While the effectiveness of these campaigns is still being debated and studied, one thing is clear: Advertising is a powerful tool, one that plays a large role in whether people decide to start smoking or not.