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TARGETING TEENS

The Tobacco Industry's Advertising Strategies

Source: Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition

Statistics are a starting point for you, but you and your club members must also explore the reasons and rationales related to smoking. Sociodemographic (where and how people live), socioeconomic, environmental, behavioral, and personal factors all affect the start of tobacco use among adolescents. But how a young person perceives his or her environment as it relates to tobacco use may be the strongest influence of all. That is why tobacco advertising has a particularly powerful pull for to this audience.

The tobacco industry devotes about $6 billion each year to advertise and promote its products. Although current tobacco industry rhetoric rejects the notion that the industry has as a major objective appealing to young people, its researchers, advertising, and public relations professionals know the youth market and develop ads that will attract them.

One advertising executive who worked on a Marlboro account said, "when all the garbage is stripped away, successful advertising involves showing the kind of people most people would like to be, doing the things most people would like to do, and smoking up a storm . . . ."

Further, young people are lured not only by ads that feature young models and youthful images, they are also influenced by advertising that suggests maturity, adulthood, and "the right to smoke." Either way, using tobacco looks appealing and appears to be something that "everybody does" when, in fact, fewer and fewer people smoke each year.

Increasing amounts of the tobacco industry's advertising and promotion budget is being used for promotional give always. You can find tobacco ads on clothes, jackets, caps, and t-shirts, and on cups, key chains, and a variety of other items. Many of the major brands even have catalogs, and smokers can exchange empty packs or receipts for merchandise, some of which is quite expensive high-priced.

By attaching itself to other things that young people want, the tobacco industry systematically influences their perception of the deadly products it sells. Young people are turned into walking billboards for the tobacco products, advertising to the target audience, other people their age.

One consequence of such intense advertising is that, when asked, adolescents consistently overestimate the number of young people and adults who smoke. According to the 1994 Surgeon General's Report, those with the highest overestimates are more likely to become smokers than are those with more accurate perceptions. Similarly, those who perceive that cigarettes are easily accessible and generally available are more likely to begin smoking than are those who think it is difficult to find or buy tobacco products.

Smokers often say that they began their habit because they wanted to "fit with friends and sometimes family members who used tobacco. Other images in the lives of young people, especially those in print advertising, suggest that smoking, dipping, or chewing is part of a healthy, fun lifestyle.

Cigarette and smokeless tobacco advertisements in youth-oriented magazines consistently use imagery that depicts tobacco use as adventurous, fun, and romantic. These ads feature young, attractive models and appear very frequently throughout magazines that teens and young adults read.

One study revealed that from 1984 through July 1989, the number of ads per magazine issue generally declined in men's and women's magazines but was relatively stable in those magazines reaching youth and black audiences. Research has also shown that the highest number of tobacco ads depicting horseplay and romantic contact are in youth- and black-oriented magazines,