Tobacco Company Tactics

Understanding Tobacco Companies in Advertising, Sponsorship & Promotion

See how the Big Tobacco companies use Advertising, Sponsorship & Promotion to sell their products.

Did you know that the tobacco industry spends $800 million dollars annually in New York State alone to promote its deadly products? Want them to stop? Here's how you can to make a difference.

The tobacco industry has worked for years to legitimize its business and encourage the use of their deadly products. Tobacco advertising and promotion are rampant in our communities. If you don't smoke and you are over age 25 you are probably unaware of the extent of tobacco advertising. Our mission is to bring the tactics that Big Tobacco uses to your attention and to help us to do something about it.

There are several major strategies that the tobacco industry uses on a daily basis in our communities. Click on the links below to learn how Big Tobacco targets you and your children. Join us in raising awareness.

For more information on how Big Tobacco targets our kids, go to

Tobacco Use Statistics

  • Tobacco use begins young: 88% of adults who have ever smoked tried their first cigarette by the age of 18 ;the average age at which smokers try their first cigarette is 14 ½.
  • Nationally, more than 48,500,000 are currently smokers.
  • In New York State:
    • 6.7% of middle school children smoke (Middle school males=7.2%, Middle school females=5.6%
    • 21.3% of high school students smoke (High school males=21%, high school females=21.6%)
    • 23.3% of people over 18 smoke (Males=25.8%, females=19.2%
  • Tobacco companies spend more than $11.22 billion in marketing their products each year.

Health Effects of Tobacco Use

  • 440,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses every year, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • Scientific studies have concluded that cigarette smoking can cause chronic lung disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, in addition to cancer of the lungs, larynx, esophagus, mouth, and bladder.
  • Each year, secondhand smoke kills an estimated 62,000 nonsmokers, including approximately 3,000 deaths due to lung cancer and 35,000 deaths due to heart disease among nonsmokers each year in the United States.

Sponsorship & Promotion

Tobacco Industry Sponsorship - when Tobacco companies underwrite sponsorship of sporting and entertainment events, they are doing it to sell their product and promote youth smoking.

Tobacco companies spend more than $11.22 Billion in marketing their brands to kids each year!

  • Research suggests that tobacco sports sponsorship may influence youth smoking attitudes and behavior. This research has found that cigarette sports sponsorship has profound affects on brand awareness, perceived connections between brands and sport, associations between cigarette sports sponsorship and excitement, attitudes about smoking, and smoking behavior.
  • The majority of studies regarding tobacco sponsorship agree that its effects on children are similar to those of traditional tobacco product advertisement and promotion about 1/3 of adolescent experimentation with smoking results directly from tobacco advertising and promotion.
  • Tobacco industry sponsored events are typically home to tobacco brand promotional activity. Research shows that children who participate in promotional activities are over 9 times more likely to smoke than other children.

And they don't have to be at the event to be affected.

Even complying with the Master Settlement Agreement's restrictions on event sponsorship and marketing to kids, tobacco companies will be able to achieve 25 hours of television exposure, an equivalent of $99.1 million in television advertising value, per year through sponsorship of sporting events or teams.

"We are in the cigarette business. We are not in the sports business.
We use sports as an avenue for advertising our product."

- RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company

  • A study in the UK revealed that about 1/3 of 10- and 11-year olds and more than half of children 12 and older could name cigarette brands and their associated sponsored sports.
  • The effect is often subliminal. In the study mentioned above, while only 9% of under-12-year-olds could identify Marlboro and John Player Special as major auto racing sponsors, 47% of them identified those brands as being liked by someone who likes excitement and fast racing cars.
  • Simply knowing of a friend who has participated in tobacco promotional activities makes youth 3 times more likely to smoke; and
  • Just being willing to use a tobacco promotional item has the same impact as actually owning the item on increasing your smoking susceptibility.

Sponsorship pays off for tobacco companies.

  • Between 1995 and 1999, tobacco companies sponsored at least 2733 events, programs, and organizations in the US, with funding adding up to a minimum of $365.4 million.
  • In only half of that period, these sponsorships allowed for tobacco brands to have 169 hours of television exposure, an advertising value of $410.5 million

"Music is the second of our targeted promotional themes and Marlboro is involved in a big way... The real benefit of the concept is the quality of the personal contact which ensures that Marlboro and music are firmly linked in our target group's mind."
- Philip Morris, 1990
Sponsorship Fact Sheet: Tobacco Industry Sponsorship

Promotion: How Big Tobacco makes our kids walking billboards for their products.

When a child wears clothing embellished with tobacco products logos, or participates in tobacco promotional activities, they are more than 9 times more likely to smoke than kids not aware of tobacco promotions.

Even mere awareness of a tobacco promotional event increases youth smoking susceptibility...

One study found that a child who is aware of tobacco promotional activities and has a friend who owns tobacco promotional items is 3.4 times more likely to smoke than others who do not.

At least two other studies have shown to that desire to own tobacco promotional items increases youth susceptibility to smoking almost as much as does actually owning those items.

"The fragile, developing self-image of the young person needs all the support and enhancement it can get. Smoking may appear to enhance that self-image in a variety of ways. If one values, for example, an adventurous, sophisticated, adult image, smoking may enhance ones self-image. This self-image enhancement effect has traditionally been a strong promotional theme for cigarette brands and should continue to be emphasized."
- RJ Reyonolds Tobacco Company, from a document entitled, Some Thoughts About New Brands of Cigarettes for the Youth Market, 1973.

An estimated 1/3 of adolescent experimentation with smoking can be directly attributed to tobacco promotional activities...

If a child is not only aware of, but has also participated in, tobacco promotional activities, (s)he is 9.3 times more likely to smoke than kids not aware of tobacco promotions. And if that child received free tobacco product samples while participating in a tobacco promotion, that child will be 21.8 times more likely to smoke than the other kids.

  • Research has shown that branded tobacco paraphernalia is used by youth to 'try on' or to assimilate the identity of a smoker. As shown in Philip Morris documents as early as 1969, the permanence of that 'identity' is soon to follow: Smoking a cigarette for the beginner is a symbolic act... 'I am not my mother's child, I'm tough, I am an adventurer, I'm not square'... As the force from the psychological symbolism subdues, the pharmocological effect takes over to sustain the habit.

"[T]he base of our business is the high school student."
Lorillard - Tobacco Company Executive, 1978