TOBACCO MARKETING TO COLLEGE-AGED YOUTH
When the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement prohibited tobacco
advertising to children under age 18, the tobacco industry
intensified its marketing efforts towards 18-24 year olds.
Perhaps not coincidentally, young adults are now the only
age group in which smoking rates are rising rather than falling.
Advertising in the college and alternative press and bar promotion
which involve the distribution of free cigarettes are some
of the ways in which the tobacco industry targets college-aged
Tobacco’s Big Money and
- By 1999, one year after the Master Settlement Agreement,
tobacco companies increased spending on marketing by more
than 20%, from $6.9 billion to $8.4 billion (FTC, 2001).
- In 1999 alone the tobacco industry spent $335.7 million
on promotional items such as t-shirts, sunglasses, and caps
as well as another $33.7 million on free cigarette samples
- Young people are susceptible to tobacco advertising. Among
teenagers, those who reported having a favorite tobacco
ad, had received a tobacco promotional item, or who were
willing to use a tobacco promotional item initiated smoking
at a younger age (Bobo, 2000).
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- A Phillip Morris document reads:
“A key factor in the success of Marlboro advertising
has been its consistent targeting of 18-24 year old men….
By targeting communications at the club/disco/bar environment
(eg. Sampling) …. PM successfully builds up brand
loyalty at an early stage (Katz, 2002). This strategy is
especially effective because young adults are more likely
than older adults to attend bars and clubs on a regular
- In 1999, the tobacco industry spent $33.7 million on free
cigarettes (FTC, 2001).
- Bar promotions are used to “develop a database of
younger adult smokers for follow up direct marketing activities”
(Katz, 2002). This direct marketing might include mailings
and emails that could reach students at their campus mail
and email addresses.
- Tobacco companies promote their products in bars because
of the impact of social influence on behavior. Since bars
are considered “smoker-friendly” young adults
are more inclined to smoke in bars than elsewhere, in order
to fit in with the social context. The tobacco industry
understands that bars are one of the places that young people
might take up smoking (Katz, 2002).
- Some promotions reportedly target bars close to university
campuses to maximize access to potential young smokers (Katz,
- Phillip Morris documents reveal that proposals for bar
and nightclub promotions would help them compete for the
business of “entry-level” smokers (Sepe, 2002).
- Tobacco companies have drastically increased advertising
in the alternative press, which has very heavy young adult
readership. From 1994-1999 the number of tobacco ads increased
from under ten advertisements in a year to over 300. Over
half of these advertisements were for tobacco-sponsored
bar and nightclub promotional events (Sepe, 2002).
- A recent study suggests that attendance at a tobacco industry-sponsored
event at a bar, nightclub, or campus party was associated
with higher smoking rates among college students. Students
who attended promotional events were more likely than those
that did not to be current smokers or current users of any
tobacco product. These students were also more likely to
have smoked cigarettes or used a tobacco product within
the last year (Rigotti, 2004).
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Targeting College Students Where
They Live and Work:
- Tobacco companies host promotional events at fraternities
and sororities, where free samples, coupons, and paraphernalia
are distributed to an exclusively collegiate audience. One
survey shows that only about half of fraternities and sororities
have regulations about the type of companies from which
they will or will not accept donations or sponsorships (ALF,
- Tobacco companies recruit employees on college campuses.
Large tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris are often
featured at college career and internship fairs (ALF, 2002).
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