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What brands are US smokers under 25 choosing?
  1. R J O’Connor
  1. Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Elm and Carlton Streets, Buffalo NY 14203, USA
  1. Correspondence to:

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It is well known that the most heavily advertised brands tend to attract the younger smoker market. In the USA the most heavily advertised brands are Marlboro, Newport, and Camel.1,2 Few analyses have delved into the specific varieties popular among youth. Do “Lights” or “Full Flavors” predominate? To answer this question, data on the cigarette brand preferences of smokers in the 2002 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health were analysed.

Using the on-line analysis feature of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive,3 cigarette brand used in the last 30 days was cross tabulated with the type of cigarette (Full Flavor, Light, Ultra Light, self reported) used in the past 30 days. Separate analyses were conducted on three age groups: 12–17 years (n  =  2290) and 18–25 years (n  =  7321), and 26+ years (n  =  5238). Analyses accounted for survey design characteristics and percentages were weighted to the US population.

Figure 1 shows the top five varieties in each age group. Marlboro Lights were the most popular brand style in all three age categories. The popularity of Marlboro Full Flavor (FF) decreased with age, as did Newport FF. Marlboro Ultra-Light was not as popular with the youngest respondents. Overall, Marlboro brands held 50.6% of the youngest smokers, 53.5% of the young adult smokers, but only 37.8% of the older adult smokers. The relationship of Newport use with age was more striking—24.6% for 12–17 year olds, 17.8% of 18–25 year olds, and 7.0% of 26+ year olds smoked Newports. Camel Lights and Newport Lights varieties were much more popular among youths than among older smokers. Newport was the dominant brand among African American smokers under age 26. Among 12–17 year olds, 54.1% smoked Newport FF and 13.5% smoke Newport Lights, while among 18–25 year olds, 70.6% smoke Newport FF and 9.1% smoke Newport Lights. By contrast, only 36.7% of African Americans over age 26 smoked Newport FF and 4.2% smoked Newport Lights. Doral Lights and Basic FF and Lights together accounted for 9% of the adult market, yet were practically non-existent in the youth market (<1%).

Figure 1

 Top five cigarette brands anong 12–17, 18–25, and 26+ year olds, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2002. Percentages are weighted to the US national population.

It appears that Marlboro Light is the most popular brand style among younger smokers in the USA. Marlboro Full Flavor and Newport Full Flavor are quite popular, with Camel less so. Five of the top nine varieties in all three age categories are Lights or Ultra-Lights, though the specific varieties varied by age. Discounted brands (Doral and Basic) account for a sizable percentage of the adult market but a miniscule percentage of the youth market. The youth market in the USA appears dominated by varieties of the major advertised brands; other products make up a more modest percentage of the market. Conversely, the adult market is much more diffuse, with the major varieties commanding smaller overall percentages of the market. Light varieties appear to be popular choices for younger smokers. Similar investigations in other countries could shed further light on younger smokers’ brand choices, particularly in those countries that have banned descriptors such as “Light” and “Mild”.