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Outdoor cigarette advertising is expected to finally be prohibited in Russia in 2007, five years after the first, albeit toothless, law attempting to ban it. Not surprisingly, tobacco companies are taking advantage of what might be their last few months of wooing new customers via this effective means of advertising, by stepping up their campaigns on billboards and public transport. Noteworthy are the actions of Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which in March introduced a new brand of cigarettes unashamedly targeted towards youth. The company has publicised that the target audience for the new “Wings by Winston” brand is 18- to 24-year-olds, and a company representative has stated, “We figure that these cigarettes will be bought by young people, who don’t yet earn enough to buy our more expensive [brands].” Selling cigarettes to those under 18 years of age is illegal in Russia, though the law is rarely enforced and a recent survey found that by the age of 18, over 40% of school pupils are already smokers.
On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day in May, the chief epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, Gennady Onishchenko, lamented that there had been a sharp rise in smoking among teenagers, the long term effects of which would only add to the country’s well-known demographic crisis. While JTI may claim that those under 18 are not part of its target group (and the company website may claim that one of its marketing principles is “Ensuring that our brand marketing has no particular appeal to youth”), the advertising campaign is likely to be found appealing by teenagers under 18 as well. Advertisements promoting the new brand in subways, on bus stop shelters and on billboards feature brightly-coloured silhouettes of a young, hip couple dancing, and bear a slogan that is close to the heart of every teenager—“Being different is being yourself”. The campaign, estimated to cost approximately US$10 million, spread to print media, with a special insert to an entertainment magazine sponsored entirely by “Wings by Winston”, advising readers how to best spend their summer breaks. Photographs in the insert remove any remaining doubts about who the company is targeting.