Did you ever walk or drive down a road and notice teens and kids smoking? Did you ever ask your self why? Aren’t you afraid of having to see your kids and their friends do the same thing one day? If you are a smoker yourself, then when, how and why did you start smoking? Were tobacco ads one of the major factors that helped you start smoking? If you started when you were a teen, wasn’t it because these tobacco ads were very appealing to you at that young age? Many of the tobacco companies develop and design their advertisements particularly to attract our teens and make them victims of tobacco smoking. Not only have they targeted our teens but our young adults too. In this essay I will focus mainly on analyzing the tobacco ads that are particularly designed to attract young adults as well as teens and kids.
Before analyzing these tobacco ads I would like to make some points that you may or may have not been aware of. The tobacco industry agreed to stop targeting kids in their advertisements in the State Tobacco Settlement of 1998 however, over the next two years they actually increased their marketing costs by 42 percent and therefore recorded a new record of $9.6 billion in the year 2000. This implied that they spent $26 million per a day on marketing and targeting our teens and youth. Statistics also show that the most advertised brands such as Marlboro, Camel and Newport are favored by 87% of our youth; less than half of all adults actually smoke these famous brands which is very shocking (DID YOU KNOW?). “Every day 5000 kids under the age of 18 try their first cigarette. Another 2000 become regular daily smokers; one-third of them will die” (DID YOU KNOW?). “A new study reports that tobacco industry marketing undermines parents’ efforts to prevent their children from smoking by associating smoking with independence, coolness, fun, and risk-taking.” (DID YOU KNOW?)
Below are some examples of ads that target our youth; notice that they are the brands that youth smokers prefer over other brands.
Above it says on the box, “Get this free if you y 2 packs”.
Motor bikes definitely attract our youth and kids.
Of course, there are many tobacco companies worldwide that target our kids and teens, they do so directly and indirectly; like I said earlier, brands that are usually favored by our youth are the ones that usually spend millions of dollars on commercials that targets and lures our teens to buy their products; obviously the pictures that I put above are some of the most visible examples that you may find. Later we will be analyzing the pictures to find the intentions that are hidden behind them. Why do companies target our youth and teens? It only takes common sense to answer this question; they target teens because they are their potential customers. The question that we should ask ourselves is why don’t they work on luring adults and stop luring children? The answer is, “Because companies want to replace older smokers who die from tobacco-related illnesses” (Kowalski) another answer could also be, “Relatively few people start smoking or switch brands after age 18. So tobacco companies developed ad campaigns to lure teens” (Kowalski). This is quite shocking but we can’t deny that it is so true; the majority of smokers start smoking in their teen years or early adulthood years.
Tobacco companies have similar strategies to market their products. They may use T.V. ads, magazine ads, promotions and many other types of media that may lure customers who are usually teens. In the picture above, it’s obvious that Newport was targeting teens and kids when it put that racing car as a promotional product; do you think that an adult would really be interested in buying two packs of Newport cigarettes to get that car? Even if he does get the promotional car he would probably end up giving it to his children (if he had any) and therefore we can say that the company indirectly marketed its product to the child. An effective strategy that directly targets teens is advertising tobacco in magazines; “the magazine sits on the shelves of an Ohio public library’s young adult/teen section. And the same issue carries a full-page ad for candy” (Kowalski).
Examples of magazine tobacco ads.
Who else wants to be cool other than teens and young adults?
Clearly, the ad in the magazine above is directed at teens and young adults and there is no question about it. Posters are also used as another way of luring teens by some tobacco companies, I really don’t know where you would find a tobacco poster or why would you buy it but it seems they mix it with posters of models and celebrities which is a very effective way to influence teens who look at those celebrities and models as role models; eventually they would want to smoke just like their favorite celebrity or model.
Posters, TV ads, magazines and promotional products are not the only advertising methods in the hand of the tobacco industry. I think that the look of the products that businesses offer is the most important factor to its success in the market; tobacco companies unfortunately used this feature of their products to lure our teens. How? Cigarettes all look similar; however the packs always seem to be colorful and attractive to young people or even kids. Some of the packs even look like candy packs. It is obvious that the tobacco industries use the cigarette packs as another indirect way of luring teens to their products. I mean why don’t they leave the cigarette packs white or colorless? All these bright colors and cool pictures and company logos on cigarette packs are definitely targeted at a specific audience, our teens and kids. Although it says that smoking is a health threat on every pack, it doesn’t really tell our teens why; for example when it says that the smoke contains carbon monoxide, it assumes that the teens and kids actually know what carbon monoxide is or what its health risks are but the truth is that not all kids and teens are aware of that, not all of them are the same age and thus the level of education that they may have received definitely varies from one individual to the other. In any way, the packs are so attractive any way and therefore teens become careless about the warning signs written on them and assume that smoking makes them cooler because it makes them risk-takers and adventurous. The packs are nothing but propaganda to lure teens to the deadly product.
Below are some examples of these attractive packs:-
Look at all these colors, isn’t it the same product after all? Can you not tell that the packs above are designed to attract young teens and adults? To me the hidden goal behind these American Spirit packs was extremely obvious. Compare the packs above with the packs in the picture below. Obviously the product loses its look and becomes so unattractive to the eye and a teen or even an adult that might walk by it might not even realize that it is there.
During my research on this topic, I stumbled upon one study that I thought was very interesting. The study was stated by Michael Siegel, MD, MPH Assistant Professor in the Boston University School of Public Health February 17, 1998. The main question in this study was if cigarette companies specifically target youth in their magazine advertising. The study examined the top 34 U.S. magazines in 1994; it examined the relationship between the presences of advertisements of different cigarette brands and the number of adult and youth readers in each magazine. The study defined youth readers as those between the ages of 12 and 17 and adult readers were those aged 18 and up. The study showed that cigarette brands that are popular among youth are more likely to advertise in magazines with a higher percentage of youth readers. These results demonstrate that tobacco companies specifically target our teens and youth in their magazine advertising campaigns (Ads Get Kids to Smoke).
Since I mentioned previously the TV ads that promote cigarettes to children, let’s check the following video that I found on Youtube. Although it is an old advertisement, it still illustrates the primary target audience of the tobacco companies. Even if they have less freedom now a day, I don’t think those limitations will actually prevent them from targeting our children.
Similar ads are now found in our teens’ every day life; maybe smoking ads have been restricted from appearing in cartoons that our kids watch. However they still appear in video games, Sports events such as F1 racing and many other places and media that might be the focus of most of our teens’ interests.
Above is just one example of tobacco ads in video games; imagine how many are out there. Is the game above rated “R”? Probably not; this means that even kids and teens under the age of 18 play it. That is exactly the goal of Marlboro when it advertises it self in video games; to advertise their products indirectly to the children and teens. I am sure that when a kid plays the video game above, he or she would definitely think about Marlboro.
The truth is, tobacco companies have been targeting our kids and teens since the 1930’s. They are big industries that don’t really care about public health at all, all they care about is the money that they make out of getting people addicted to their deadly products. KOOL for example targeted our kids and teens with a cartoon character decades before Joe Camel appeared in the ads of Camel (a much known youth-favored tobacco company). Kool’s character was a penguin called Willie; “Years (indeed, decades) before “Joe Camel” became a controversial cartoon representative of the tobacco industry, “Willie” was a widely known symbol and spokes-penguin for KOOL cigarettes” (Lowe). Some of Willie’s ads were so attractive to kids and teens that they would have never been accepted now a day.
Below are some of willie’s ads that used to be shownto every body including teens and children:-
This ad was in the year 1934. (Golfing)
1935 – Willie the penguin surfing.
In conclusion, I would like to say that what the tobacco industries are doing is extremely unethical and unjustified. Attracting teens or even adults to smoke is not ethical because it is a product that kills and deprives one from living a normal healthy life; it makes them slaves to their product. I believe that there are many ways to defeat the tobacco industry, increasing the level of awareness among our children and teens is one of them however we can also fund anti smoking campaigns and support any anti-tobacco law that our government decides to implement. We are a long way from eliminating the tobacco threat in our country but it isn’t too late. We must all be devoted to it for the sake of the next generations. It is horrible to see our kids addicted to tobacco; it is really similar to watching them die slowly. Almost all smokers regret the fact that they started smoking and almost all of them don’t like to see their kids and loved ones follow the same path. Were they victims of tobacco advertisements? Yes. Are they the bad guys? No; the tobacco companies are the bad guys and there is no question about it. We must act now and stop tobacco companies from killing our loved ones.