Skip to main content

Tobacco companies market to youth…and yes, it's intentional

Nearly half of all youth visit a convenience store or gas station at least once per week. What kinds of things do they get at these locations? Snacks, drinks, gas, candy…a taste of Big Tobacco’s point-of-sale marketing strategies?

Point-of-sale marketing is marketing and advertising that occurs where a customer completes a sales transaction, so at or near a check-out counter or the gas pump are prime examples. Do you recall seeing an ad or signage for tobacco products at these locations? More than likely, yes…and your children probably did, too.

Tobacco companies spend $9.1B per year to promote their products in the United States, which equates to about $25M per day, or roughly $1M per hour (these numbers do not include e-cigarettes). $284.5M is spent each year in the state of Indiana alone. The majority of these funds are put towards signage and ads (indoor and outdoor), price promotions, coupons, and customer discounts.

Marketing “tactics” include heavy advertisements at retail locations near schools and playgrounds, flavored products (typically candy and fruit), product and ad placement (near youth products such as candy and toys, or specifically at a child’s eye-level), and price promotions. Many of these are intentional and are meant to entice children and young people.

Tobacco products can many times be found at children's eye level, or near toys or candy in stores.

From the 2014 Surgeon General Report…“the root cause of the smoking epidemic is also evident: the tobacco industry aggressively markets and promotes lethal and addictive products, and continues to recruit youth and young adults as new consumers of these products.”

Unfortunately youth see these signs and advertisements so much that they have become “normal.” Most kids don’t think twice about seeing a tobacco ad at or near eye level as they enter a store. In some locations, children don’t even have to enter the store to see tobacco ads as many are placed in store windows, or outside the store and at gas pumps.

Exposure to tobacco point-of-sale marketing as youth is associated with young people starting to smoke, product experimentation and co-use among multiple tobacco products, all of which can result in becoming a lifelong, daily smoker, which involves many health risks, such as heart disease, cancer and premature death.

As adults, we should educate ourselves as well as the young people in our lives about tobacco marketing and the risks of tobacco use.

For more information about tobacco point-of-sale marketing and other tobacco control issues in Jefferson County, contact Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coordinator, Natalie Garrett at 812-801-0598.

Additional resources can also be found here.

Subscribe to This Week in Health to get the latest health news delivered to your inbox.