In 1998 the Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and the states prohibited tobacco marketing from television and billboards. Since then, the retail environment has become the major outlet to advertise and promote the purchase and use of tobacco products.

The tobacco industry spends 93% of its marketing budget at the retail site, with $8 billion going towards price discounting.

Advertising works and tobacco advertising works to:

·      Increase youth and adult tobacco use and impulse buys

·      Encourage youth to try tobacco products

·      Persuade experimenting youth to progress to regular use

·      Minimize the dangers of a deadly product by having it accessible at the grocery store

·      Create a perception that tobacco products are popular

·      Familiarize children with tobacco brands

Tobacco advertising is potent, with a causal relationship between exposure to tobacco advertising and youth tobacco use, equal to the influence of parental smoking. Tobacco advertising is heaviest at convenience stores where the majority of teens visit regularly.  Studies show that children use the brand of tobacco product that is most heavily advertised at the store nearest their school.

Tobacco advertisements are designed to appeal to youth by depicting bold behavior, independence, adventure, social approval, good health, and sophistication, and tobacco ads and displays are often placed at child’s eye-level or near candy.

A survey of Juneau’s tobacco retail environment found that fortunately, the vast majority of stores do not advertise cigarettes externally.  However 100% of stores selling cigarettes have them visible to the customer and children on a “power wall”.

In addition:

·      21% of stores sold cigarettes within a foot of candy or toys

·      54% of stores had price promotions

·      The majority of sellers also sold chew (96%), cigarillos (92%), large cigars (63%) and e-cigarettes (71%)

·      The majority of products came in multiple flavors

·      The majority (75%) of cigarillos came as singles

·      13% of stores sold cigarillos for under a $1

We know that the higher the price on tobacco, the less people smoke.  Price discounting is another way in which the tobacco industry keeps tobacco products accessible to youth. When price discounts are offered and advertised, sales on tobacco products increase by as much as 30%, with women and minorities being most susceptible to price discounting despite their economic status.

What kind of tobacco advertising do you see in your community?  What tobacco advertising are your children being exposed to?  Do you approve of the tobacco industry undermining your parental influence by advertising directly to your child at the grocery or convenience store?  Why are grocers, gas stations and convenience stores participating in the promotion of the most deadly product on the market today?  Look around you, what do your children see?

Contributed by:
Dr. Kristin Cox, ND
Tobacco Prevention and Control
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence