The Land of Oz: How the Tobacco Industry Markets to Your Kids

The Land of Oz: How the Tobacco Industry Markets to Your Kids Nicole Hall is the prevention coordinator for PRIDE of Tuscaloosa. Hall enjoys spending time with her husband, Jordan, and their dog, Ferris.

By Nicole Hall

When you think about tobacco marketing, I am sure you might think about the handsome cowboy, Camel Joe, or maybe even the Flintstones, who were once hired in the old days to promote a certain brand of cigarettes. The youth of today are not faced with television ads, billboards, or commercials, but rather a new marketing tactic called “point of sale.” Point of sale marketing takes place where the items are sold. Think about the last convenience store you went into. What did you see? If you take a moment to look at your surroundings, it’s hard to miss. I assure you, young, intrigued eyes take notice, as they are quite observant. The bright packaging. The discounts. The fruity flavors. They take it all in, just like the tobacco companies want them to.

Each day, big tobacco spends approximately $1 million dollars on point of sale advertising. Let that sink in. One. Million. Dollars. A day. It is used for product placement: where the menthols are located; the shelf level of chewing tobacco; and even surrounding the tobacco products with other products kids enjoy (candy, chips, or toys). The money is also used on the bright packaging and developing fruity flavors of products. It is used for signage placement and discounts where viewability is the highest. 

But they have gone a step further. Big tobacco is making products that look similar to non-tobacco products: Smokeless tobacco packages that look identical to beef jerky; nicotine orbs that look like a can of mints; and nicotine strips that look identical to mint breath strips. They have even started to make toothpicks with nicotine in them. As cigarette sales decline and the taxes continue to go up, tobacco companies are finding it necessary to go to new lengths with product design and advertising. And trust me, they are good, and they have it down to a science. 

Today, less than 6 percent of youth in the United States report using tobacco products. But what if we could get that number to zero? What would happen if big tobacco no longer had the ability to retrain a generation to continue the cycle of nicotine addiction? The reality is that addiction does not discriminate. Addiction to nicotine is real, which is the reason that people continue to use tobacco products, even though they are aware of the deadly effects.  With student and parent education on how big tobacco continues to market and recruit new users, we can help prevent the onset of youth tobacco use in our community.  

For more information, check out wegetitalabama.com from the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

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