Tobacco Industry Marketing Aimed At Children.

Students in Indonesia buy single cigarettes without age identification at a kiosk after school. Photo by Michelle Siu


Despite increasing government regulation of tobacco marketing globally, children and young people are still being targeted by tobacco companies like British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI).

Two thirds of all smokers begin as children under the age of 18 and this is an essential window of opportunity for the tobacco industry as only a small proportion of adults take up smoking. Unless Big Tobacco can succeed in getting this reservoir of young “replacement smokers” [1] hooked, it faces a dying market as half of all adult smokers die prematurely, amounting to millions of lost customers every year. [2] This drives companies like BAT and PMI’s need for their products to be bought by children and young people.

Youth-orientated marketing initiatives are particularly dangerous as research shows that exposure to cigarette promotion from a young age creates a positive association with smoking, making it more difficult for addicted smokers to quit.

The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) published a report last year [1] showing how tobacco companies including BAT and PMI persuade consumers to use their products in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Benin, Nigeria, and Uganda. Both of these companies conduct intensive marketing and promotional campaigns to encourage tobacco usage among children by targeting the areas around schools.

They do so through four key strategies: advertising and promotion, sale of single cigarettes, sale of child-friendly flavoured cigarettes, and non-compliance with existing tobacco control laws.

ATCA’s research found high numbers of cigarette promotion and sales near schools, just the sort of promotion that is banned in the UK. “In Burkina Faso, 100% of the schools surveyed have stores in the surroundings that advertise cigarettes. In Cameroon, 85% of the schools have stores in the vicinity that promote cigarettes on the counter. In Uganda, 100% of the schools have stores in the vicinity that promote cigarettes behind the counter. In Benin, 100% of the schools surveyed have stores around selling flavoured cigarettes. Similar products are being sold respectively around 55% and 25% of schools in Cameroon and Uganda.” [1]

Enticing flavours coupled with the ease of access to cigarettes, particularly through the sale of individual cigarettes, has been shown to encourage higher rates of smoking among children and adds to the overall growing epidemic of tobacco usage in these five countries.

Though there have been attempts at regulation, companies such as BAT and PMI either directly hamper public health policy initiatives [3], flout the lawaltogether [4], or find new ways to promote products to children. The public must press for greater government regulation and enforcement to prevent the promotion of cigarettes to children.

Here’s how you can: #ActOnTobacco


[1] African Tobacco Control Alliance. Big tobacco tiny targets: Tobacco industry targets schools in Africa. November 2016.
[2] Kessler judgement :US District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action №99–2496 (GK) USA Plaintiff v. PMI (USA) defendant et al. Final judgement 2006.
[3] Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Tobacco. 15 February 2015.
[4] Mosupi A. African children the latest target for tobacco companies — ATCA. Times Live. 7 December 2016.