Tobacco Industry Marketing
Cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year to market their products.1,2
- In 2016, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $9.5 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the United States alone.1,2
- Cigarette companies spent $8.7 billion on cigarette advertising and promotion in 2016, an increase from $8.3 billion in 2015.1
- The five major U.S. smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent $759.3 million on smokeless tobacco advertising and promotion in 2016, an increase from $684.9 million spent in 2015.2
The money cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent in 2016 on U.S. marketing amounted to—
- About $26 million each day1,2
- About $29 for every person (adults and children) in the United States per year (according to 2016 population estimate of 323,000,000)1,3
- About $250 per year for each U.S. adult smoker (based on 37.8 million adult smokers in 2016)1,4
The following three categories totaled approximately $7.87 billion and accounted for 90.4% of all cigarette company marketing expenditures in 2016:1
- Price discounts paid to retailers and wholesalers to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers— about $7.2 billion
- Promotional allowances paid to cigarette retailers, such as payments for stocking, shelving, displaying, and merchandising particular brands—$228.8 million
- Promotional allowances paid to cigarette wholesalers, such as payments for volume rebates, incentive payments, value-added services, and promotions—$395.9 million
Marketing to Specific Populations
Youth and Young Adults
Scientific evidence shows that tobacco company advertising and promotion influences young people to start using tobacco.5
- Adolescents who are exposed to cigarette advertising often find the ads appealing.
- Tobacco ads make smoking appear to be appealing, which can increase adolescents’ desire to smoke.
The three most heavily advertised brands—Marlboro, Newport, and Camel—were the preferred brands of cigarettes smoked by middle school and high school students in 2016.5
Cigarette Brand Preferences among U.S. Middle School Students:5
- 38.3% preferred Marlboro
- 21.4% preferred Newport
- 13.4% preferred Camel
Cigarette Brand Preferences among U.S. High School Students:5
- 48.8% preferred Marlboro
- 16.6% preferred Newport
- 13.3% preferred Camel
Women are also targeted by the tobacco industry, and tobacco companies continue to produce brands specifically for women. Marketing toward women is dominated by themes of social desirability, empowerment, and independence, which are conveyed by advertisements featuring slim, attractive, and athletic models.6,7
Advertisement and promotion of certain tobacco products appear to be targeted to members of racial/minority communities.
- Marketing to Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives has included advertising and promotion of cigarette brands with names such as Rio, Dorado, and American Spirit.7,8
- The tobacco industry has targeted African American communities in its advertisements and promotional efforts for menthol cigarettes. Strategies include:5,7
- Campaigns that use urban culture and language to promote menthol cigarettes
- Tobacco-sponsored hip-hop bar nights with samples of specialty menthol cigarettes
- Targeted direct-mail promotions
- Tobacco companies’ marketing to Asian Americans has included:7,8
- Sponsorship of Chinese and Vietnamese New Year festivals and other activities related to Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
- Heavy billboard and in-store advertisements in predominantly urban Asian American communities
- Financial and in-kind contributions to community organizations
- Support of Asian American business associations
- Federal Trade Commission. Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2016 [PDF–589 KB]. Washington: Federal Trade Commission, 2018 [accessed 2018 Mar 30].
- Federal Trade Commission. Federal Trade Commission Smokeless Tobacco Report for 2016 [PDF–632 KB]. Washington: Federal Trade Commission, 2018 [accessed 2018 Mar 30].
- Census Bureau. Quick Facts United States: Population Estimates. Washington: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, 2017 [accessed 2018 Mar 30].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2018;67(2):53-9 [accessed 2018 Mar 30].
- Perks SN, Armour B, Agaku IT. Cigarette Brand Preference and Pro-Tobacco Advertising Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2012–2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2018;67(4):119–24 [accessed 2018 Apr 17].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2001 [accessed 2017 Nov 3].
- National Cancer Institute. The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use. [PDF–6.51 MB]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2008 [accessed 2017 Nov 3].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups—African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 1998 [accessed 2017 Nov 3].
For Further Information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office on Smoking and Health
Media Inquiries: Contact CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health press line at 770-488-5493.
- Page last reviewed: May 4, 2018
- Page last updated: May 4, 2018
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