Tobacco Industry Marketing
Cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year to market their products.1,2
- In 2019, the largest cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $8.2 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the United States alone.1,2
- The four major U.S. cigarette companies spent $7.62 billion on cigarette advertising and promotion in 2019.1
- The five major U.S. smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent $576.1 million on smokeless tobacco advertising and promotion in 2019.2 Smokeless tobacco products include dry snuff, moist snuff, plug/twist, loose-leaf chewing tobacco, snus, and dissolvable products.
The money cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent in 2019 on U.S. marketing amounted to—
- About $22.5 million each day1,2
- About $25 for every person (adults and children) in the United States per year (according to 2019 population estimate of 328,239,523)1,3
- About $240 per year for each U.S. adult smoker (based on 34.2 million adult smokers in 2018)1,4
The following three categories totaled approximately $7.13 billion and accounted for 93.4% of all cigarette company marketing expenditures in 2019:1
- Price discounts paid to retailers and wholesalers to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers— about $5.7 billion
- Promotional allowances paid to cigarette retailers, such as payments for stocking, shelving, displaying, and merchandising particular brands—$174.9 million
- Promotional allowances paid to cigarette wholesalers, such as payments for volume rebates, incentive payments, value-added services, and promotions—$336.6 million
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
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Cigarette Report for 2019 [PDF – 1.1 MB]. Washington: Federal Trade Commission, 2021 [accessed 2021 Apr 27].
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Federal Trade Smokeless Tobacco Report for 2019 [PDF – 1 MB]. Washington: Federal Trade Commission, 2021 [accessed 2021 Apr 27].
- Census Bureau. Quick Facts United States: Population Estimates. Washington: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, 20178 [accessed 2020 Apr 16].
- Creamer MR, Wang TW, Babb S, et al. Tobacco Product Use and Cessation Indicators Among Adults – United States, 2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2019, 68(45);1013-1019. [accessed 2020 Apr 16]
- 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.. 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].