Marketing to America's youth: evidence from corporate documents
- 1Department of Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, USA
- 2Summerland Communications, Buffalo, New York, USA
- Correspondence to: K Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, Department of Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Elm and Carlton Streets, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA;
Objective: To evaluate the claim that the tobacco industry does not market its products to youth.
Design: The data for this study come from tobacco industry documents collected from the tobacco industry's document websites, presently linked at http://www.tobaccoarchives.com. The websites were searched using “request for production” (RFP) codes, specified keyword searches, and serendipitous terms identified in document citations found with RFP and keyword searches.
Results: Industry documents show that the cigarette manufacturers carefully monitored the smoking habits of teenagers over the past several decades. Candid quotes from industry executives refer to youth as a source of sales and as fundamental to the survival of the tobacco industry. The documents reveal that the features of cigarette brands (that is, use of filters, low tar, bland taste, etc), packaging (that is, size, colour and design), and advertising (that is, media placements and themes and imagery) were developed specifically to appeal to new smokers (that is, teenagers). Evidence also indicates that relevant youth oriented marketing documents may have been destroyed and that the language used in some of the more recent documents may have been sanitised to cover up efforts to market to youth.
Conclusions: The tobacco industry's internal documents reveal an undeniable interest in marketing cigarettes to underage smokers. The industry's marketing approaches run counter to and predicate methods for tobacco prevention: (1) keep the price of the product high; (2) keep product placements and advertising away from schools and other areas with a high volume of youth traffic; (3) make cigarette advertising (that is, themes and visual images) unappealing to youth; (4) make product packaging unappealing to youth; and (5) design the product so it is not easy to inhale.