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Kids are Big Tobacco’s “Replacement” Customers

While the tobacco industry claims they no longer target kids, they still use tactics to attract kids to use their products. They use enticing flavors, colorful packaging, and names and logos similar to popular types of candy11. And many of these products are often placed in kid-friendly locations in convenience stores, often near candy12, and sold at kid-friendly prices. The tobacco industry also promotes their products on social media, and advertises in magazines anctcp_social_final_1d direct mail. The tobacco industry even has their own “youth prevention” campaigns, not to help keep kids from smoking, but as a public relations ploy to make themselves look good and stop laws and policies restricting their predatory marketing practices.

Flavored Tobacco Products

Who even likes strawberry flavored cigars? Kids, that’s who.

A new report released by the California Medical Association (CMA) finds that youth are attracted to sweet flavors and, with the help of targeted marketing, are more likely to try and continue using a tobacco product that is flavored. This paper comes to the same cautionary conclusion as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Surgeon General have in the past: tobacco flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and bubble gum help mask the harshness of tobacco and lure our kids who have never used tobacco products before into a lifetime of addiction.

70% of US middle and high school tobacco users have used at least 1 flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days.10

But this is not news: in 2009, the FDA banned the use of flavors in traditional cigarettes on the basis that flavors are especially appealing to youth and that a ban on these products would help to reduce the number of youth who start smoking. However, menthol and other tobacco products like cigars, hookah tobacco, smokeless tobacco, or e-cigarettes were excluded from this ban and are still allowed to be sold in flavored varieties. Flavors, including menthol, help to mask the naturally harsh

Find out more in this brochure about flavors.
Find out more in this brochure about flavors.

taste of tobacco and make it easier for youth and new users to initiate and sustain tobacco use13. In fact, certain flavors in tobacco use the exact same flavoring chemicals as candies like Zots and Jolly Ranchers, meaning that these products literally taste and smell like candy!4 Kids love candy, but how do we know that kids like flavored tobacco products? We know because the use of cigarettes among youth has declined over the past few years while flavored e-cigarette and hookah use has increased among youth.18 And if you still don’t believe these flavors are attracting kids,  just ask them: this is exactly what a recent study did and found that more than two-thirds of youth report using tobacco products because “they come in flavors I like.”

While the FDA decides on its next steps regarding flavored tobacco products, the good news is that local jurisdictions in California have the power to restrict or even prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products. We know that as long as tobacco products are allowed to be flavored, they will continue to entice our kids to become the next generation of tobacco addicts.

Convenience Stores

Nearly half of kids shop in convenience stores at least weekly19, and 92% of stores sell flavored tobacco products, including menthol. 10

It has been widely documented that in-store marketing is an important way for tobacco companies to promote their products to hook new, young smokers and keep smokers from quitting. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2014, tobacco companies spent $9.1 billion at the point of purchase, retail stores, accounting for over 95% of total marketing dollars spent.6

The tobacco industry knows convenience25-ads stores are where kids shop and they heavily market to them in these locations. In a 2014 survey of tobacco retail outlets in California found that about one-third of stores (32.6%) had at least one tobacco ad at young kids’ eye level (three feet or lower), and 40% of stores near schools actually put tobacco products near candy at the checkout.

Find out more about what kids experience in California’s convenience stores here.

Price Discounting and Pack Size

Price discounting has become the tobacco industry’s leading method of attracting users, and accounts for the largest percentage of industry’s marketing spend. Price discounts disproportionately affect vulnerable populations including young people, racial/ethnic minorities, and persons with low incomes, as these groups are more likely to purchase tobacco products through a discount15 16. The tobacco industry continues to promote little cigars, which are comparable to cigarettes with regard to shape, size, and packaging, at a lower cost to cigarettes14. In addition, while cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20, other tobacco products, like little cigars, can be purchased in quantities of one or two at a time, often for less than a dollar12.

Social Media & Internet Marketing

Vape-Tricks-InstagramTobacco companies extensively use the Internet and social media to market their products, and in 2011, 40% of adolescents were exposed to pro-tobacco images on the Internet.2 4 This is a particularly effective strategy to reach youth, who consume much of their media through new technologies. For tobacco companies, online marketing has the added benefit that many aspects of it are largely invisible to parents.

Many tobacco companies sell their products online, particularly e-cigarettes. In a recent study, kids are successful in buying e-cigs online 94% of the time9.

Tobacco companies also use social media to aggressively market their products, sponsoring social media celebrities to endorse their products, reaching many kids through their SnapChat, Instagram, and YouTube feeds. Kids will even swap videos on how to use tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and hookahs.

Click here to hear real California teens talk about their experiences with e-cigarettes and social media.

Magazines

In 1998, the tobacco industry signed the Master Settlement Agreement, vowing to stop targeting youth. However, in 2011, 48% of middle school and 54% of high school students reported seeing tobacco ads in magazines.

Direct Mailing

The tobacco industry has adapted to restrictions on print and television advertising by turning to other marketing methods. One such method is direct mailing to their target customers. Tobacco companies use direct mailing as a way of advertising and providing incentives for users to buy their products. Young people often get on tobacco-companies’ mailing lists after providing their personal information in exchange for a tobacco-related coupon or smokeless sample at a bar promotion, or when completing an Internet survey.

Direct mail campaigns often use themes and images that appeal to youth. One example of this approach is RJ Reynold’s “Camel Break Campaign,” which was launched in late 2010. This campaign uses names and images of “cool” U.S. cities, including San Francisco, to market Camel cigarettes to appeal to the adventurous and rebellious spirit of young people.3

Tobacco Industry Youth Prevention Efforts

The tobacco industry created youth smoking-prevention programs in the 1980s due to increasing public scrutiny. The industry’s main goal, however, was not to prevent youth smoking, but rather to counter growing concerns over their marketing practices aimed at youth.

“Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens.” — Philip Morris, 1981

As outlined in tobacco industry documents, prevention programs were actually created to prevent further tobacco regulations, enhance the industry’s public image and build key relationships with legislators, educators and other influential parties.

While the tobacco industry’s prevention ads give the impression of warning against youth smoking, their carefully crafted themes actually deliver mixed messages to youth. Messages often include reminding youth that smoking is for adults and stressing the “law” as the reason not to smoke. Consider Lorillard’s campaign that claims, “Tobacco is whacko…if you’re a teen.” In other words, smoking is okay if you’re an adult.

Stop Big Tobacco’s targeting of kids.

 

  • References

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    2. Dube, S. et al. “Pro-Tobacco Influences and Susceptibility to Smoking Cigarettes among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2011,” Journal of Adolescent Health, 52:S45-S51, 2013.
    3. Myers, M., Press Release, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, November 12, 2010.
    4. Liang Y, Zheng X, Zeng DD, Zhou X, Leischow SJ, Chung W, “Exploring How the Tobacco Industry Presents and Promotes Itself in Social Media,” J Med Internet Res 2015;17(1):e24.
    5. Schleicher, N, et al, “Tobacco Marketing in California’s Retail Environment (2008-2011), Final report for the California Tobacco Advertising Survey,” Stanford, CA: Stanford Prevention Center; July 2013.
    6. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, “Deadly Alliance - How Big Tobacco and Convenience Stores Partner to Market Tobacco Products and Fight Life-Saving Policies;” 2012.
    7. California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program, Health Stores for a Healthy Community Survey, 2013. http://www.healthystoreshealthycommunity.com/
    8. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, “Big Surprise: Tobacco Company Prevention Campaigns Don’t Work; 2012.
    9. Rebecca S. Williams, MHS, PhD; Jason Derrick, MSW; Kurt M. Ribisl, PhD, "Electronic Cigarette Sales to Minors via the Internet," JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(3):e1563. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.63
    10. Corey, C.G., et al., Flavored tobacco product use among middle and high school students—United States, 2014. MMWR Morbitity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2015. 64(38): p. 1066-1070
    11. Brown, J.E., et al., Candy flavorings in tobacco. New England Journal of Medicine, 2014. 370(23): p. 2250-2252.
    12. Oregon Public Health Division, Flavored Tobacco: Sweet, Cheap, and Within Kids' Reach, in CD Summary. 2014, Oregon Health Authority: Oregon.
    13. King, B.A., S.R. Dube, and M.A. Tynan, Flavored cigar smoking among US adults: findings from the 2009–2010 National Adult Tobacco Survey. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2013. 15(2): p. 608-614.
    14. Delnevo, C.D. and M. Hrywna, "A whole ’nother smoke” or a cigarette in disguise: How RJ Reynolds reframed the image of little cigars. American Journal of Public Health, 2007. 97(8): p. 1368.
    15. White, V.M., et al., Cigarette promotional offers: who takes advantage? American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2006.
    16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 201
    17. CDC, "Youth & Tobacco Use" fact sheet
    18. Arrazola, R.A., et al., Tobacco use among middle and high school students—United States, 2011-2014. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2015. 64(14): p. 381-5.
    19. Sanders-Jackson, A, et al., “Convenience store visits by US adolescents: Rationale for healthier retail environments,” Health & Place 34:63-66, 2015.

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