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Tobacco Industry Targeting

The tobacco industry targets product marketing to specific, vulnerable groups.

The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting specific groups and an excellent track record when it comes to luring them to try their deadly products. Once hooked, nicotine addiction and ongoing marketing efforts can create customers for life. Some of the most common targets have been:

  • Youth
  • American Indians
  • Minorities
  • LGBTQ+ communities
  • Women
  • People of low socioeconomic status (SES)
  • Military
  • Rural populations
  • Sport groups (particularly baseball, rodeo and hunting)
  • First-year college students, fraternity members and sorority members


Big tobacco and vape companies have enormous budgets to study behavior and develop specific marketing campaigns designed to recruit new users. The tobacco industry spends an estimated annual $27.5 million marketing their products in South Dakota. Even with federal restrictions placed on cigarette marketing through traditional outlets like TV or radio, the tobacco industry outspends anti-tobacco efforts by orders of magnitude.

Tobacco and e-cigarette companies have the budgets to take advantage of all kinds of marketing outlets including:

  • The internet
  • Social media platforms
  • Retail environments
  • Recreational venues and events
  • Sponsorship of music festivals
  • Product placement in movies
  • Influencer sponsorship


Tobacco Industry Marketing Trends and Tricks

Taking advantage of the youth vape epidemic

Tobacco Free Kids warns that e-cigarettes are hooking a new generation on nicotine—putting millions of kids at risk and threatening decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use. It’s a nationwide crisis of youth addiction, fueled by thousands of kid-friendly flavors and massive doses of nicotine.

Current data show the scope and cause of the problem:

  • Kids aren’t just experimenting with e-cigarettes. Many are using these products most days or every day, a sure sign they’re becoming addicted. In 2021, 43.6% of high school e-cigarette users vaped on at least 20 days a month, and 27.6% reported vaping every single day.
  • Flavored products are driving this epidemic. In fact, 85% of youth e-cigarette users use flavored products, with fruit, candy/desserts/other sweets, mint and menthol reported as the most popular flavors.
  • Kids have shifted dramatically to disposable and menthol e-cigarettes, two categories of products that were left on the market under current federal restrictions. These shifts show that the only way to end this crisis is to eliminate all flavored e-cigarettes.

At first glance, it’s hard to tell which is candy and which isn’t. Well, that’s no accident. Confusion works in the tobacco and vape companies’ best interest. They WANT kids to think products like chew tobacco, vape, mods, JUUL pods and flavored cigars are as fun and harmless as candy bars. It’s a trick, not a treat. Nicotine in any form is poison and ADDICTIVE!


Heavy marketing and discounting in convenience stores

Tobacco companies spend huge portions of their marketing budgets to advertise and promote their products in convenience stores, gas stations and other retail outlets. They pay stores billions to ensure that cigarettes and other tobacco products are:

  • Advertised heavily
  • Displayed prominently
  • Priced cheaply to appeal to kids and current tobacco users
  • Well-documented tobacco sales strategies include:
  • Discounts and special offers on individual pack sales
  • Sales-related promotional allowances (buy-one, get-one)
  • Coupons (so many coupons)
  • Sales-linked bonus items (free promotional materials with purchase)

This marketing is very effective at reaching kids because two-thirds of teenagers visit a convenience store at least once a week. Studies have shown that exposure to tobacco marketing in stores and price discounts increases youth smoking.


Increased marketing of smokeless tobacco

Tobacco companies have significantly increased marketing of smokeless tobacco products, and they have introduced an array of colorfully packaged and sweetly flavored products, some of which look, taste and are packaged like candy.

In addition to marketing traditional chewing tobacco in kid-friendly flavors such as cherry, apple and citrus, tobacco companies have introduced new dissolvable and easily concealed tobacco products. These products — sticks, snus, strips and orbs – are very discreet and can look like mints, breath strips, and toothpicks.

Flavored nicotine pouches are big tobacco’s answer to many of the things people don’t like about smoking or chewing – smoke, spitting, smelling bad, having to go outside – and provide delicious doses of straight nicotine in varying levels.


Proliferation of cheap, sweet-flavored “little cigar”

Tobacco companies have introduced a growing number of smaller cigars, called little cigars or cigarillos, with sweet flavors, colorful packaging, fun names and cheap prices, all of which makes them appealing to kids.


New versions of cigarette brands most popular with kids

Tobacco companies know that Marlboro, Newport and Camel are the three most popular cigarette brands among youth smokers. They keep these brands fresh and appealing by introducing new brand extensions such as Marlboro Black, Marlboro Snus, Newport Red, Camel Snus and Camel Crush.