It’s no coincidence that the tobacco industry spends the majority of its marketing dollars — about $7.3 billion in 2010 alone — on strategies to promote retail sales in the United States. After all, convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets are where people purchase cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products the most. Retail advertising and point of sale are so important that stores are even paid well for it. , According to a Philip Morris sales manual, “we pay the retailer for performance on our behalf.”
The Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida campaign and Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) are shedding light on the tobacco industry’s continued efforts at the point of sale to target youth and young adults.
Two out of three youth visit a convenience store at least once a week and studies show that youth are much more likely than adults to be influenced by promotional pieces in these stores. In fact, 9 out of 10 smokers started by age 18.
Stores where adolescents shop most often have more than three times the amount of cigarette ads and promotional materials outside of the stores and almost three times more materials inside, compared to other stores in the community, according to a survey. Not only does Big Tobacco’s marketing in the retail environment target youth, but the amount of marketing promotions and ads also re-normalizes tobacco use. The fact is that tobacco use is NOT the norm. Four out of five adults are non-smokers. When youth perceive tobacco use as the norm, they’re more likely to see it as acceptable.
Also, tobacco companies target lower-income, minority communities with point-of-sale marketing. Point-of-sale ads in minority communities are more likely to advertise a cheaper price on cigarettes or provide better buy-one, get-one deals than in more affluent white communities. In fact, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure are more prevalent among lower income communities.
Because of pervasive advertising and products with enticing fruit and candy flavors, youth tobacco prevention becomes even more challenging. Each day, more than 4,000 youth (under 18) try smoking for the first time, and an additional 1,000 youth become regular daily smokers.
Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease and nearly 100 percent of adults who smoke started when they were 26 or younger, so prevention is the key. Of every three young smokers, only one will quit. One of those remaining smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related causes.
What You Can Do
Share this blog post to help raise awareness. Educating youth about how they’re being targeted can help prevent them from falling into Big Tobacco’s deadly trap. Prevention is key to ending the tobacco epidemic.