Product placement in films shows tobacco companies still up to their old marketing tricks

Friday 05 January 2001

Tobacco brands are still appearing in American films despite a voluntary ban on paid product placement agreed in 1988. A study published in The Lancet shows that the endorsement of popular cigarette brands by actors in the US film industry has increased since the introduction of the product placement ban. [1]

Commenting on the findings, ASH’s Research Manager Amanda Sandford said: “Although
paid product placement of cigarette brands was supposed to have ended in the late 1980s, it looks as though tobacco companies are still using actors to advertise their brands. Branded products don’t just appear by accident – a lot of planning goes into what products appear in films and who will be using them. The finger of suspicion points towards a tobacco industry campaign to get round other marketing restrictions.”

This study also reveals the hypocrisy of tobacco companies’ claims that they do not want to encourage young people to smoke.

Amanda Sandford commented: “The fact that tobacco brands were as common in films suitable for young audiences as they were in films for adults makes a mockery of industry claims that they are concerned about youth smoking. Tobacco companies know full well that kids are going to see these films and this is probably a deliberate tactic to target the youth market.”

The study also shows that almost half the revenues from the films came from outside the USA, indicating a large international audience. This has worrying implications for tobacco control measures worldwide and could undermine the effectiveness of tobacco advertisings bans.


[1] Sargent, JD et al. Brand appearances in contemporary cinema films and contribution to global marketing of cigarettes. The Lancet, 2001; 357: 29-32.

Contact: Amanda Sandford: 020 7739 5901 (wk) or 020 8257 3501 (hm)