Collection: Young Smokers
The ads in this theme, featuring attractive, smiling, young models, blatantly target teens and young adults. This theme spans decades of cigarette ads targeting youth, from the 1920s Fatima cigarettes slogan, “the younger crowd,” to the 1930s and ’40s Old Gold slogan, “for young ideas,” to the 1950s Philip Morris slogan “for those with keen, young tastes.” Internal industry documents show that young people have been (and remain today) a key marketing target for tobacco companies.
Most smokers do not begin smoking as adults. Almost all new smokers, the lifeblood of the industry, are teens and young adults aged 13 to 21. An R.J. Reynolds document from 1973 reveals the long-seeded emphasis on targeting teens with cigarette ads: “Realistically, if our Company is to survive and prosper, over the long term, we must get our share of the youth market” (1). In the 1980s, R.J.R. placed a stronger emphasis on the necessity of hooking teens early, claiming that “younger adult smokers have been the critical factor in the growth and decline of every major brand and company over the last 50 years. They will continue to be just as important to brands/companies in the future…” (2). Later in this same document, the company literally refers to its smokers as if they assets, claiming that a young smoker “appreciates in value over time because of increased consumption.” Decades later, the sentiment that youth must be targeted remains prevalent. A more recent R.J. Reynolds document from 1998 explains that because only 31% of smokers begin smoking after age 18, and only 5% after age 24, “younger adults are the only source of replacement smokers” once adult smokers pass away (3).
The emphasis on targeting teens was by no means restricted to R.J. Reynolds. An internal Philip Morris document from 1981 explains that the teen market is “particularly important,” because “today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens” (4). Even after harsh criticism from activists and policy makers, tobacco companies continue to advertise to the youth market. While they claim they target only “informed adults” of at least 21 years, recent ad campaigns tell a different story. Take a look at some of our other themes, including “Flavored Tobacco,” “Joe Camel,” “Newport Teases Teens,” and “Recent Menthol” to discover Big Tobacco’s ongoing teen marketing campaigns.
Abroad, where regulation is less strict, flagrant targeting of youth in cigarette ads remains rampant. Bright pink ads for Kiss cigarettes in Russia, using fresh-faced girls enjoying lollipops and ice cream cones, exemplify the dangers of tobacco advertising with next to zero regulations.
1. Teague, Claude E. “Research Planning Memorandum on Some Thoughts About New Brands of Cigarettes for the Youth Market.” R.J. Reynolds. 2 Feb 1973. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/mqu46b00/pdf
2. Burrows, D.S. “Younger Adult Smokers: Strategies and Opportunities.” R.J. Reynolds. 29 February 1984. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/tqq46b00/pdf
3. “The Importance of Younger Adults.” R.J. Reynolds. 27 Feb 1998. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/eyn18c00/pdf
4. Johnston, M.E. “Young Smokers Prevalence, Trends, Implications and Related Demographic Trends.” Philip Morris. 31 March 1981. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/fts84a00/pdf