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American Lung Association® Fact Sheet Tobacco Product Advertising and Promotion

Through advertising and promotion, the tobacco industry targets 1.61 million new smokers a year to compensate for those who quit or die.

August 1998

Cigarettes are one of the most heavily marketed consumer products in America. In 1995 tobacco companies spent almost $5 billion to promote and advertise their products. This represents an increase in spending of almost 14 times since 1970, when advertising on radio and television was banned. An estimated 430,700 Americans die each year from diseases caused by smoking. Smoking is responsible for an estimated one in five U.S. deaths and costs the U.S. at least $97.2 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity.

While tobacco products have been mass produced and marketed for decades, it has taken many years for their deadly effects to be scientifically documented. Tobacco is the only legal product that causes death and disability when used as intended.
Advertising and promotion for tobacco products often are misleading and deceptive. Tobacco advertising and promotion project images of smoking as fun, sexy, glamorous, macho, and, most insidiously, healthful.
The tobacco industry is the second largest advertiser in the print media, including magazines and newspapers, and the largest advertiser on billboards.
Persuasive advertising and promotion add to the difficulties of those trying to quit smoking by projecting the impression that smoking is a normal activity indulged by almost everyone.
Another strategy of tobacco advertisers is to mount aggressive campaigns aimed at specific segments of the population, such as youth, women, African Americans, Hispanics, and blue collar workers.
A recent study found that 34 percent of teens begin smoking as a result of tobacco company promotional activities.
Through advertising and promotion, the tobacco industry targets 1.61 million new smokers a year to compensate for those who quit or die.
Brand names used in sponsoring sports, musical and cultural events convey an image of corporate "good citizenship" and generosity, and connect tobacco products, which are toxic and addictive, with exciting and healthy events and activities.
Tobacco companies are allowed to deduct the cost of advertising and promotion from their taxes as a business expense, which saves them in excess of $1 billion a year in taxes.
In a 1987 survey of public attitudes, a majority of Americans indicated their support for a ban on cigarette advertising. More than 30 national magazines no longer accept cigarette advertisements. A 1992 Gallup poll reported that a majority of the American public (74 percent) believe that some tobacco product advertising and promotions are meant to encourage children to smoke, and 68 percent of the public believe that tobacco product advertising and promotions should not be allowed at entertainment and sporting events.
Many states and localities have taken action by barring tobacco advertising on public property, in public transit vehicles, and in publicly owned stadiums and other facilities.
On the other hand, because of the influence of the tobacco companies, a provision of the 1969 federal law providing for health warning labels on cigarettes also prohibits states and cities from restricting tobacco advertising and promotion in privately owned sites such as theaters, on taxi cabs, etc. This legislation also affects anything where interstate commerce rules apply, such as advertisements in magazines.
Powerful lobbying forces representing the tobacco industry, as well as advertising agencies and some in the print media, continue to oppose any restriction on tobacco advertising and promotion.
The American Lung Association has programs that teach youth about the realities of tobacco advertising.


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