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Tobacco Industry Targetting of Youth

TheTobacco Industry continues to research strategies to recruit new tobacco users and promote their products in ways that are appealing to youth.

The Industry spends millions of dollars learning what works and what doesn’t.  Their overall goal is to recruit tobacco users and make money.  

Their tactics include:

ü  Advertising

ü  Grant Funding

ü  Youth Prevention Programs

girl entangled in vines poster


The Industry creates advertisements to give the illusion that everyone smokes and those who do smoke are cool, popular, lucky, have a lot of friends and are happy and healthy.  They also give away “cool stuff” to make people like them.   They work to normalize tobacco use.
Packaging, advertising, and marketing are developed to attract attention to the product especially the attention of children such as using colorful packaging that resembles candy and gum that youth enjoy.  
 gilr holding pack of gum and camel cigarettes

Advertising works. 

  • The ads use colorful images and messaging that appeal to youth.
tobacco ads in store checkout 
  • The three most heavily advertised cigarette brands are Marlboro, Newport, and Camel. The Center for Disease Control reports that 86% of smokers under the age of 18 prefer one of these three brands.
  • Marlboro, the most heavily advertised brand, constitutes almost 50% of the youth market but only about 40% of smokers over 25 years old. 
Tobacco users trying to quit or who have quit say that all of the tobacco advertising makes it difficult to stay tobacco free because seeing the tobacco products and branding everywhere triggers them to want to use tobacco.
  • Advertising occurs through many venues including:
  • Magazines
    Although the tobacco companies agreed to only advertise in magazines with less than 2 million youth readers or 15% youth readership, they place ads in magazines that are just under those numbers.  Research has shown that there has been a substantial increase in tobacco advertisements in magazines with just fewer than 15% readership since the MSA was signed. 
    magazine ad for Doral cigarettes 

    Point of Sales Advertising (POS)

    Point-of-purchase tobacco advertising consists of cigarette and other tobacco ads and functional items (such as counter mats and change cups) located inside, outside, and on the property of convenience stores, drug stores, gas stations, and other retail sales outlets.

    tobacco product display 
    • 81% of the tobacco company’s marketing budget is spent on strategies to facilitate retail sales through price discounts (coupons and sales) and how to best display their products in the retail space. 

    The tobacco companies use contracts and give monetary incentives to tobacco retailers to place advertising materials and product displays in prime locations in and around the store.1
     tobacco and teddy bear display
    • Products are placed at eye level of youth often near kid-friendly items, which encourages youth to believe that these items are harmless.  
    •  Stores that are frequented by youth or are near schools and parks often have more ads then those not near schools and parks.
    tobacco and teddy bear display
    • Teens who shop often in stores where tobacco is widely advertised are twice as likely to start smoking.2
    Promotional Activities and Events
    • Direct mailing is conducted by tobacco companies to people who have signed up for their mailing list stating that they are over the age of 18.  Most companies do not verify the ages of those on their mailing or website lists.
     tobacco game sent to customers
    • Tobacco companies send coupons and discount offers.  These offers are especially enticing to smokers who are “price-sensitive,” particularly youth and young adults.
    • There are controlled circulations of the tobacco companies’ own magazines, advertising smoking as a socially desirable activity.
    • Brand loyalty programs are created that encourage frequent purchases of tobacco products through incentives.
    • Clothing, apparel, backpacks, lighters, hats and other items are given to increase awareness of their brand.
    • Research shows that children who owned a tobacco promotional item and who named a brand that attracted their attention, were almost 3 times more likely to become an established smoker within five years than those who did not.
    • 1/3 of teens’ experimentation with smoking can be directly attributed to tobacco promotional activities.3
    Doral ad with dog 
     Camel cash advertisment
    • The tobacco companies will give incentives to bars and clubs to promote their product and in turn the tobacco companies will turn the bar or club into a “happening place”, with prizes, beautiful people and entertainment.  The establishment will be given items such as napkins, coaster, table tents and gear such as jackets to wear, all branded with the logo of the tobacco product.  These events are appealing to young adults as well as youth.    
    Other Types of Marketing and Advertising

          Movies and other Media

    The Tobacco Industry also uses movies and other types of media for marketing to youth.


    The appearance of tobacco use in movies and in film increased significantly after the MSA.4

    • 75% of PG-13 rated movies and 40% of movies rated G and PG contain tobacco images. 4
    • Tobacco is much more prevalent in movies than in real life and is presented in a much more positive way.    
    • Every time an actor lights up , millions of youth receive the message that tobacco use is both okay and desirable.5   
    anti- smoking movie poster 

    Grant Funding and Prevention Programs

    Tobacco companies provide grants to organizations who are struggling financially and who also provide services for youth.  These companies have also developed tobacco prevention programs for use by organizations, schools and agencies.

    They use these types of activities to improve their public image, to market themselves as a responsible company and block any further governmental action that might impede their efforts to sell and market their tobacco products. 

    By presenting themselves as good, conscientious people that are now opposed to youth smoking, the cigarette companies hope to convince policymakers and the public that they should be allowed to pursue their business goals without any additional government oversight or regulation at all.6  

    phillip morris ad with girl playing soccer 

    The tobacco companies also hope that by giving agencies money and having them use their programs, they can use the agencies’ good name to boost their own.  However, one of the requirements of these program is to collect and submit data from the program participants.

     Right Decision Right Now logo    
    Phillip Morris'
    logo for their prevention program
    The Tobacco companies have research what works and what does not work when it comes to preventing youth tobacco use.  They develop their prevention programs using what does not work.

    There has been no research produced that has proven that the tobacco companies’ prevention programs prevent or even reduce youth tobacco use.  Although there are several studies that have confirmed that these programs are ineffective and even work to encourage youth to use tobacco.7






    1 Point of sale Advertising, fact sheet,

    2 Point of sale Advertising, fact sheet,

    3  Fact Sheet :Tobacco Industry Promotional Events,

    4 Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

    6 Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! Manual, American Lung Association, 2000