The Federal Trade Commission on Friday reported that cigarette marketing expenditures in the United States declined from $12.5 billion in 2006 to $10.9 billion in 2007 and $9.9 billion in 2008. The FTC also reported that smokeless tobacco marketing increased from $354.1 million in 2006 to $411.3 million in 2007 and $547.9 million in 2008. When measured from 2005, smokeless tobacco marketing has more than doubled (from $250.8 million to $547.9 million).
While it is a positive step that cigarette marketing has declined, the tobacco companies continue to spend huge sums to market their deadly and addictive products. Counting both cigarette and smokeless tobacco marketing, the tobacco companies spent $10.5 billion on marketing in 2008 – nearly $29 million each day and 52 percent more than they spent at the time of the 1998 settlement of state lawsuits against the industry, which was supposed to curtail tobacco marketing.
Tobacco companies in 2008 spent 20 times more to market tobacco products than the states currently spend on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit (the states spent $517.9 million on such programs in fiscal year 2011). This huge mismatch between how much tobacco companies spend to encourage tobacco use and how much states spend to discourage it is a major contributing factor to the slowing of smoking declines in recent years.
It is especially troubling that smokeless tobacco marketing more than doubled from 2005 to 2008 and increased by 277 percent since 1998. This has contributed to a 36 percent increase in smokeless tobacco use among high school boys between 2003 and 2009 (from 11 to 15 percent reporting smokeless tobacco use in the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Much of smokeless tobacco marketing in recent years has been aimed at enticing kids to start and at discouraging smokers from quitting, undermining efforts to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco companies continue to aggressively market traditional smokeless tobacco products, often in kid-friendly candy and fruit flavors (such as vanilla, cherry and apple Skoal). They have also introduced an array of new smokeless tobacco products, many like R.J. Reynolds' Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs that appeal to kids because they look, taste and are packaged like candy and are easy to conceal. Increasingly, manufacturers have marketed smokeless tobacco as a complement to cigarettes in the growing number of places where smoking is not allowed. Marketing for R.J. Reynolds' Camel Snus has used the slogan "Pleasure for wherever," specifically encouraging use of the product in offices, bars, airplanes and concerts. Similarly, advertising for Philip Morris' Marlboro Snus stated, "So next time smoking isn't an option, just reach for your Snus." These products and marketing campaigns clearly discourage smokers from quitting – and truly protecting their health.
The continuing high level of tobacco marketing shows why we need aggressive action by all levels of government to stop the tobacco epidemic. The Food and Drug Administration must effectively exercise its new authority over tobacco products and marketing, while the Administration and Congress should fund and implement the federal government's new Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan. The states must pick up the pace of their efforts to increase tobacco taxes, enact smoke-free laws and fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
Tobacco use is the nation's number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. These deaths and costs are entirely preventable if elected officials at all levels fight tobacco use as aggressively as the tobacco companies market their deadly products.