Despite legal settlements and laws that have curtailed some of their marketing, tobacco companies still spend huge sums — more than $10 billion a year — to promote their deadly and addictive products, much of which is spent to continue enticing and addicting America’s kids.
The recently released 2012 U.S. Surgeon General’s report, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults," concluded that the scientific evidence "consistently and coherently points to the intentional marketing of tobacco products to youth as being a cause of young people’s tobacco use."
Despite the fact that 443,000 Americans die from tobacco use each year, 1.4 million kids try their first cigarette each year.
So how is the tobacco industry marketing to kids today? Four recent trends in youth tobacco marketing include:
- Heavy advertising and discounting of tobacco products in stores frequented by kids: Such marketing makes tobacco products appealing and affordable to teens, two-thirds of whom visit a convenience store at least once a week. Since the 1998 tobacco settlement, tobacco advertising and promotions have soared in convenience stores and other retail outlets.
- Increased marketing of smokeless tobacco products, and introduction of new products that look, taste and are packaged like candy. With smoking on the decline and restricted in most public places, tobacco companies have nearly tripled smokeless tobacco marketing since 1998 and introduced new candy-like products that appeal to kids.
- Proliferation of cheap, sweet-flavored “little cigars”: The tobacco industry has introduced a growing number of cigarette-sized cigars with sweet flavors, colorful packaging and cheap prices, which makes them appealing to children.
- Brand extensions of cigarette brands most popular with kids: More than 80 percent of youth smokers prefer Marlboro, Newport and Camel, the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands. Tobacco companies have introduced numerous cigarette brand extensions and even smokeless tobacco products that carry these same brand names.
In a demonstration demanding tobacco companies stop targeting young people, thousands of students came together nationwide for the 17th annual "Kick Butts Day" this past week, Wednesday, March 21. They urged elected officials to protect them from lethal products, such as cigarettes.