2000 Surgeon General's Report Highlights: Tobacco Advertising and Promotion




  • Despite the overwhelming evidence of the adverse health effects from tobacco use, efforts to prevent the onset or continuance of tobacco use face the pervasive challenge of promotion activity by the tobacco industry.
  • Regulating advertising and promotion, particularly that directed at young people, is very likely to reduce both the prevalence and initiation of smoking.
  • The tobacco industry uses a variety of marketing tools and strategies to influence consumer preference, thereby increasing market share and attracting new consumers.
  • Among all U.S. manufacturers, the tobacco industry is one of the most intense in marketing its products. Only the automobile industry markets its products more heavily.

Youth and Tobacco Advertising and Promotion

  • Children and teenagers constitute the majority of all new smokers, and the industry’s advertising and promotion campaigns often have special appeal to these young people.
  • One tobacco company, the Liggett Group, Inc., has admitted that the entire tobacco industry conspired to market cigarettes to children.
  • Tobacco documents recently obtained in litigation indicate that tobacco companies have purposefully marketed to children as young as 14 years of age.
  • The effect of tobacco advertising on young people is best epitomized by R.J. Reynolds Company’s introduction of the Joe Camel campaign. From the introduction of the “Old Joe” cartoon character in 1988, Camel’s share of the adolescent cigarette market increased dramatically—from less than 1% before 1988, to 8% in 1989, to more than 13% in 1993.
  • In 1997 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against R.J. Reynolds alleging that “the purpose of the Joe Camel campaign was to reposition the Camel brand to make it attractive to young smokers…” The FTC ultimately dismissed its complaint after the November 23, 1998, Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which calls for the ban of all cartoon characters, including Joe Camel, in the advertising, promotion, packaging, and labeling of any tobacco product.

Ethnic Groups and Tobacco Advertising and Promotion

  • Many public health and smoking prevention groups are concerned about the tobacco industry’s practice of targeting cultural and ethnic minorities through product development, packaging, pricing, advertising, and promotional activities.


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