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Tobacco industry targeting of health-conscious youth with ‘lighter’ cigarettes: the case of Singapore
  1. Yvette van der Eijk,
  2. Grace Ping Ping Tan
  1. Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yvette van der Eijk, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, 117549 Singapore; yvette.eijk{at}nus.edu.sg

Abstract

Background Despite Singapore’s strict tobacco control policies, smoking rates have not decreased since 2004. We examined the primary targets, motivations and strategies behind targeted marketing activities in Singapore from the tobacco industry’s perspective to understand how tobacco companies continue to target people in their marketing.

Methods Snowball search in the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library for documents covering the industry’s targeted marketing activities in Singapore. Information from the documents was subsequently triangulated with market data obtained from the Euromonitor Passport database, analysed for trends by tar segment and data from cigarette packs purchased from Singapore retailers, analysed in terms of product positioning.

Results In the 1970s and 1980s, as young people in Singapore became more health-conscious, tobacco companies positioned ‘light’ cigarettes for growth in the 1990s. Many of these ‘lights’ contained similar tar and nicotine levels as regular brands; they were only light in their branding. In the 1990’s, ‘lights’ became more popular in Singapore and this demand was largely youth driven. Into the 2010s, while the low tar (<6 mg) segment comprised only a small portion of Singapore’s cigarette market, most cigarette variants were marketed as ‘lighter’ or as having harm reductive benefits to appeal to more health-conscious people.

Conclusions The differentiation of ‘lighter’ cigarettes remains an important marketing tool for tobacco companies amidst Singapore’s strict regulations. Legislation to remove all remaining avenues for tobacco companies to make harm reduction claims on their products, explicit or implicit, coupled with improving health literacy and exposing industry deception, could help to further bring down smoking prevalence in Singapore.

  • tobacco industry documents
  • tobacco industry
  • advertising and promotion
  • priority/special populations
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Footnotes

  • Contributors YvdE conceptualised the project, analysed the data and wrote the first draft. GPPT collected and analysed the data. Both authors were involved in writing and revision of drafts, and both authors reviewed final drafts prior to submission.

  • Funding This research was funded by a grant from the Ministry of Education of Singapore (R-608-000-226-114).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository. Data used in our analysis of tobacco industry documents is publicly available at: https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/tobacco/

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