How the tobacco industry targets young people

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Who makes the cigarettes?

  • The tobacco industry are a very powerful and manipulative industry who are more concerned about making profit and getting customers hooked and don’t care about the damage their product is doing.
  • The tobacco industry is dominated by a handful of large companies who operate across the world making enormous profits. Click here to find a map of the tobacco companies all around the world 

Where tobacco is grown

Tobacco is grown all over the world but is mostly grown in low and middle income countries. Tobacco growing leads to huge poverty issues in these countries.  

Find out more about where tobacco is grown around the world.

Tobacco and poverty

View this video on tobacco in low income countries and how it leads to hunger and poverty



Tobacco and the environment

Smoking not only damages your health, it has a massive impact on the environment.

Each time you smoke a cigarette, chemicals are released into the atmosphere, polluting the air.

But pollution is not the only way cigarettes damage the environment.

  • Approximately 5 million hectares (600 million trees) of forest are destroyed each year to provide trees to dry tobacco around the world. This is the same size of 3.6 million Gaelic Football fields
  • Litter caused by cigarette butts is a significant problem in Ireland. The 2015 National Litter Report revealed that cigarette butts accounted for 60% of litter on our streets.
  • When it rains, cigarette butts lying in our streets and gutters are washed in to our harbours, beaches and rivers. The chemicals in these butts and the butts themselves impact on our water quality and can be deadly to our marine life
  • Cigarette butts can take up to 12 years to break down
  • Tobacco litter takes toxic substances into the soil and water – cadmium, arsenic lead and polonium may lead to contaminated water and food

The tobacco industry needs young people to start smoking

The tobacco industry has a problem. 1 in 2 smokers will die from a smoking related illness. This is a problem for the tobacco industry because dead people do not smoke. The tobacco industry has to find a replacement for every person killed by their products

The tobacco industry needs 25 young people to start smoking in Ireland every day to replace those who have quit or die from their smoking

Who is most likely to take the risk of starting smoking and ignore the consequences? Who will believe the industry’s lies? The answer is young people.

What Big Tobacco has to say about young people

Publicly, the tobacco industry has always claimed that it does not use advertising to get young people smoking.  However, documents from the tobacco industry that once were confidential and are now public reveal that they see recruitment of under 18s to smoking as essential.

Some quotes from the Tobacco Industry

“Younger adults are the only sources of replacement smokers” - RJ Reynolds, 1984

“Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens… The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to Philip Morris.” - Philip Morris 1981

“The ability to attract new smokers and develop them into a young adult franchise is key to brand development.” - 1999 Philip Morris report

“They got lips? We want them.” - Reply of an RJ Reynolds representative when asked the age of the kids they were targeting

How does the tobacco industry market cigarettes to young people?

The tobacco industry spends billions of their profits each year to get young people smoking and to keep them smoking. In the US alone, the industry spent €7.3 billion in 2008 on advertising and promotion.

80% of smokers start smoking in their youth. The tobacco industry knows this - a 1984 RJ Reynolds document stated, “Younger adults are the only source of replacement smokers."

Addiction keeps people smoking into adulthood where it kills one in two long-term users of tobacco.

It is illegal to advertise tobacco products in Ireland. However, there are other ways that the tobacco industry markets its products.

Tobacco packaging

One of the most important ways the industry can get young people smoking is with packaging. The colours, images, words and designs used on cigarette packs are all used to appeal to young people.

The colours used in pack design are important. The colours used in some packs are designed to make them appear healthier than others. Research has shown that adults and young people are much more likely to rate silver or gold packs as having lower tar and a lower health risk.

Light colours and slim packets are used to attract young women and bolder colours are used to appeal to young men.

Cigarettes themselves are also used to appeal to young people. In recent years, slim line cigarettes have been designed to appeal to young women by making cigarettes appear glamorous and elegant.

Research has shown that when cigarettes are in plain packaging without branding.  most young people find the packets  ‘ugly’ and ‘boring’ and would prefer to take home a branded pack.

Check out Cancer Research UK’s short film on cigarette packaging.

Ireland became the fourth country in the world to introduce plain packaging in September 2017, following legislation passed in March 2017. There will be a 1 year washout period up to September 2018. After this time, it will be illegal for retailers to sell branded cigarettes packets, all tobacco products must comply with the standardised packaging legislation. Click here to learn more about Plain Packaging in Ireland.

Smoking in the movies

While it is more difficult for the tobacco industry to expose young people to images of people smoking, films are one place where it is normal to see people smoking.

Films give the tobacco industry a great opportunity to market a product that kills 6 million people a year to young people.  A study shows that the tobacco industry may make as much as €635 million each year as a result of new smokers influenced to start by the movies.

Teenagers whose favourite stars smoke are up to 16 times more likely to think favourably of smoking. Smoking in movies makes it appear normal and admirable to smoke and portray smokers in the same way that the tobacco industry does.

Read some more facts about smoking in the movies and take a look at some of the films currently in cinemas that feature smoking 

View “Redefining Cool”, a short video which tells more about smoking in the movies: