Tobacco companies use experiential marketing in a variety of places that appeal to young people, such as bars and nightclubs. Before 1998, they were also allowed to sponsor events, such as concerts and festivals. Every year, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spend billions of dollars to market their products, resulting in 1.3 billion tobacco users around the world. Unfortunately, this number would be even higher if tobacco didn't kill half of its users.
Decades of deception and deceptive tactics by the tobacco industry have hooked generations of consumers to nicotine and tobacco, leading to a global epidemic. The multi-billion dollar industry recruits new users of tobacco and nicotine to reward investors with the highest possible profit and keep its business alive. Tobacco and related industries are increasingly taking advantage of children and adolescents, employing advertising tactics and directly targeting them with a new portfolio of products that endanger their health. They are moving quickly to launch new and existing products before regulations can reach them, and they continue to oppose evidence-based measures such as increased excise taxes and a total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
In response to declining social acceptability of tobacco use, the tobacco industry has made well-researched and calculated attempts to redesign and rebrand its products in order to maintain profitability. This includes introducing filters for cigarettes and so-called “light” and “soft” tobacco products as an alternative to quitting smoking, which reduces consumers' perceptions of risks and harms. The industry also advocates a harm reduction approach through new products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and nicotine-free electronic delivery systems (ENNDS), commonly referred to as “electronic cigarettes”, as well as heated tobacco products (HTP). E-cigarettes are often promoted as “reduced risk”, smoke-free and socially acceptable consumer products.
These promotion strategies have the potential to re-normalize smoking habits and promote the long-term use of addictive nicotine-containing products that are undoubtedly harmful to consumers. Tobacco companies also talk about e-cigarettes in conjunction with HTP, which confuses potential consumers and makes it difficult to differentiate between a tobacco product and one that is not tobacco. These social positioning techniques, together with strategic marketing tactics, are particularly effective in targeting children and adolescents and have the potential to maintain nicotine addiction in young people around the world. Women are also the target of the tobacco industry, with companies producing women-specific brands.
It is clear that the deceptive tactics used by the tobacco industry have had a devastating effect on public health worldwide. Governments must take action to protect their citizens from these dangerous practices by implementing evidence-based measures such as increased excise taxes and a total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. Only then can we hope to reduce the number of people addicted to nicotine.