5 ways the tobacco industry targets the youth

Published July 6, 2020, 11:05 AM

by Paola Navarette

This World No Tobacco Day, a health agency reveals some of the tactics employed by the industry to ensnare a new generation of smokers

Every year, on May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day. The annual campaign raises awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco use. But this year, the campaign is intended to provide young people with the knowledge required to easily detect tactics and industry manipulation. Here are some of them. 

Use of fun flavors 

Any adult knows that if you want to get a child’s attention, there is no enticement like candy. This currency of youth has become the weapon of choice for many tobacco companies—they’re making huge investments in nicotine-loaded smoking devices and selling them in a rainbow of sweet and fruity flavors like cherry and cotton candy. “This encourages young people to underestimate the related health risks and to start using them,” WHO said. 

Sleek, discreet product design 

When e-cigarettes first began entering the market around 10years ago, some devices were designed to resemble regular cigarettes. But now companies like Juul are selling products that could easily be mistaken for a stylus or a flash drive. It can be easy to carry, too. Most of them can fit in the palm of your hand and can barely leave a trace after vaping. 

Celebrity partnerships and sports sponsorships

Big Tobacco likes to stay ahead of the curve—it has to, in order to survive. Despite strict ad rules on social media, some cigarette makers are sponsoring events and paying influencers to promote their products. “Tobacco companies pump hundreds and millions of dollars every year to sponsor sports events worldwide,” the health agency said. “Many athletes and sports fans are young people. Team jerseys, caps, tote bags, and cars bearing tobacco brand logos could create a ‘positive’ association between tobacco and the fun and excitement of sports.” 

Sale of single-stick cigarettes 

A study done by the United Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases found that, despite the government’s efforts to reduce the number of smokers in the country by imposing a higher excise on tobacco, smoking remains a problem.

The problem is in part caused by the retail sale of cigarettes, or selling cigarettes by the stick. “Sale of single-stick cigarettes remains a significant challenge and makes tobacco products easily available and affordable, especially to young and poor people,” WHO said. “Point-of-sale marketing at outlets frequented by children is another issue.” In the Philippines, a smoker can get a puff for as low as five pesos. Vendors sell them even to students in uniform. 

Promotion of vape as a ‘healthier’ alternative to cigarettes

Vaping devices are often promoted as a means to help smokers to switch to a “safer” alternative. A series of long-term studies, however, are required to conclude that it is less harmful than conventional smoking, the health agency said.