As any successful business would, Big Tobacco uses marketing strategies that appeal to a variety of users.
Why is their marketing so dangerous?
Marketing strategies used by big tobacco companies seek to create lifetime product users that develop into long term health consequences and nicotine dependency. These marketing tactics are seen in branding, advertising, accessibility and location making big tobacco products easy to get and easy to like.
These strategies often have the most appeal to youth and are heavily used to target various racial/ethnic groups, and others who experience disparities. Let’s take a look at how Big Tobacco used their marketing to appeal to these communities.
In order to target youth, tobacco companies are very strategic when it comes to the actual product, the packaging of the products, the placement in stores of the product, and any kind of sale or deal that they can oﬀer for the product. For example take vapes, speciﬁcally, Juul. Juul products were sold in ﬂavors that would appeal to youth and young users by oﬀering mango, fruit medley, cool cucumber, and creme brulee. This took out the taste and smell that would deter young users from using traditional tobacco and combustible cigarettes, however, it was composed of the same addictive chemical, nicotine.
Tobacco companies then took products similar to Juul and sold them in sleek or colorful looking packaging making them appealing to the eye. In combination with the look of the item and the addictive properties, companies then pushed sales, and discounts on products making them aﬀordable to populations with less money.
The sale and display of these items were also strategically placed often seen close to checkout counters, at eye level for younger customers, and placed closely to snack items and candies allowing the consumer to believe that their product was similar. Youth use of vape and nicotine products has skyrocketed in recent years even with the passage of temporary ﬂavor bans on products, but there is still hope. The FDA recently denied marketing applications for more ﬂavored e-cigarettes, in the hopes that this will limit strategies to gain new youth users.
Racial and Ethnic Populations/Minorities including LGBTQ+
Tobacco companies have also had a profound eﬀect of targeting racial and cultural minority groups. The Truth Initiative is America’s largest nonproﬁt public health organization that is dedicated to a future where tobacco and nicotine addiction are things of the past. In a recent investigation, conducted by Truth Initiative researchers, they found that stores in predominantly black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. were up to ten times more likely to display tobacco ads than retailers in areas with fewer black residents. American Indian and Alaska Natives, the group with the highest smoking rate, are also heavily targeted by tobacco companies through extensive promotions, sponsorships, and advertising campaigns. Internal tobacco industry documents have revealed the industry’s interest in Hispanic and Latino communities because they deemed the population “easy to reach” and “under marketed.”
Now, the tobacco industry is even using public health and social justice crises, which have a greater impact on communities of color, to promote their products. (Truth Initiative, 2020). It is becoming more and more clear that the once successful marketing campaigns used by tobacco companies have actually been targeting speciﬁc populations for decades due to a variety of factors.
For more information on Tobacco use resources contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-622-HELP(4357) or If you are looking to Quit Tobacco Products call the Wyoming Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).