For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Ojig Yeretsian, City of Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Program, (510) 981-5357

Berkeley Youth Find Half of Most Popular Songs Link Smoking with “Being Cool”

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, June 27, 2007) - In a song-lyric analysis conducted by Berkeley youth, 48 percent of the songs most popular among Berkeley youth were found to have references to “blunts”-- cigars filled with marijuana that are a very popular, yet unacknowledged, method of smoking tobacco. 
The song and music video analysis activity is a part of the Mixed Messages Campaign and aims to engage youth in media literacy and critical thinking. The program is sponsored by the City of Berkeley Public Health Division’s Tobacco Prevention Program. 

In the most recent activity, the youth peer educators analyzed a sample of 81 of the top-played songs on Bay Area radio stations, and found that 38 percent mentioned cigarette smoking, while 49 percent of the songs were perceived by youth to have a pro-tobacco or ‘cool’ message. A number of contemporary artists mention and glamorize, tobacco use, including cigars, blunts, cigarettes and hookahs in their songs.

“Since 19% of all Berkeley deaths are caused by tobacco use, we are very concerned that Berkeley’s youth are unduly influenced by the pro-tobacco messages they are receiving in various forms of entertainment, including in popular songs and music videos,” said Berkeley’s Public Health Officer, Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH.

In addition to analyzing song lyrics and music videos for references and images of tobacco, the youth peer educators take social action against the glamorization of tobacco usage by the music industry by collecting petition signatures, conducting advocacy on the social networking website MySpace, and by writing letters to video producers, music artist, and recording labels. Students have contacted labels such as Def Jam Recordings, expressing praise for the music and the artists, but asking them to entertain without tobacco references.

Since 2005, nearly 2,600 Berkeley youth have participated in the Mixed Messages Campaign, which promotes opportunities for 12-24 year olds to take action against the glamorization of tobacco in the music industry. UC Berkeley and Berkeley High School students deliver the interactive Mixed Messages curricula to younger students in the Berkeley schools, community centers, and summer camps.   For more information on Mixed Messages and other tobacco prevention initiatives, contact: or (510) 981-5330.