As part of their campaign to prevent tobacco use in children, WHO released their extensive research about tobacco marketing in America. They found that tobacco ads are disturbingly aimed at children and youths, moreso than any other marketing demographic.
According to WHO’s findings, tobacco marketing is both effective and harmful. They cited the 2012 report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General, which proved at length that tobacco industry marketing in retail stores causes youth smoking.
WHO found that each year, kids in New York State purchase or smoke 31.8 million packs of cigarettes. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, 3,200 children younger than the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette every day. Another 2,100 youth and young adults who are occasional smokers become daily smokers.
The ultimate goal in WHO’s research was to identify techniques that could reduce tobacco use in youths.
The Surgeon General advises that a good start would be to limit the use of the retail environment by tobacco companies. Apparently, in New York State, pharmacies and other retailers devote 50 or even 60 square feet of ad space to tobacco product displays, an area equivalent to over 300 pack faces. Reducing this by half or more would significantly reduce youth exposure to tobacco marketing.
The Surgeon General added that the reduction in advertising space would work best if paired with increasingly heavy taxes on tobacco products, strong smoke-free policies in public areas, and counteractive anti-tobacco advertising.
However, taking on tobacco on the marketing front is no easy task. WHO delved into the Federal Trade Commission’s 2013 Cigarette Report and found that cigarette companies spent approximately $8.37 billion marketing their products in 2011—more than $24 million a day.
More than 90 percent of these marketing expenditures by tobacco companies went to price discounts and promotional allowances that make cigarettes more affordable and ensure prime retail space. Putting forward a preventative marketing campaign that can hope to counteract reduced tobacco pricing and optimally placed ads would be a difficult challenge.