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Cigarette advertising in Mumbai, India: targeting different socioeconomic groups, women, and youth
  1. R Bansal1,
  2. S John2,
  3. P M Ling1
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  2. 2PATH Canada, Mumbai, India
  1. Correspondence to:
 Pamela M Ling
 MD, MPH, Box 0320, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0320, USA;


Background: Despite a recent surge in tobacco advertising and the recent advertising ban (pending enforcement at the time of this study), there are few studies describing current cigarette marketing in India. This study sought to assess cigarette companies’ marketing strategies in Mumbai, India.

Methods: A two week field study was conducted in Mumbai in September 2003, observing, documenting, and collecting cigarette advertising on billboards, storefronts and at point of sale along two major thoroughfares, and performing a content analysis of news, film industry, and women’s magazines and three newspapers.

Results: Cigarette advertising was ubiquitous in the environment, present in news and in film magazines, but not in women’s magazines or the newspapers. The four major advertising campaigns all associated smoking with aspiration; the premium brands targeting the higher socioeconomic status market utilised tangible images of westernisation and affluence whereas the “bingo” (low priced) segment advertisements invited smokers to belong to a league of their own and “rise to the taste” using intangible images. Women were not depicted smoking, but were present in cigarette advertisements—for example, a woman almost always accompanied a man in “the man with the smooth edge” Four Square campaign. Advertisements and product placements at low heights and next to candies at point of sale were easily accessible by children. In view of the iminent enforcement of the ban on tobacco advertisements, cigarette companies are increasing advertising for the existing brand images, launching brand extensions, and brand stretching.

Conclusion: Cigarette companies have developed sophisticated campaigns targeting men, women, and children in different socioeconomic groups. Many of these strategies circumvent the Indian tobacco advertising ban. Understanding these marketing strategies is critical to mimimise the exploitation of loopholes in tobacco control legislation.

  • BAT, British American Tobacco
  • GPI, Godfrey Phillips India
  • GTC, Golden Tobacco Company
  • GYTS, Global Youth Tobacco Survey
  • ITC, Indian Tobacco Company
  • SES, socioeconomic status
  • VST, Vazir Sultan Tobacco
  • India
  • marketing
  • socioeconomic status
  • women

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  • This work was supported by National Cancer Institute Grant number CA-87472 and the University of California San Francisco Department of Medicine.

  • Competing interests: none declared