Tobacco Advertising Focuses On Non-Combustibles

Tobacco companies are ramping up marketing spend on non-combustibles, which means everything but traditional cigarettes: chew, snuff, snus, dissolvables and the new aerosolized products.  

The research team looked at advertising over a three-month period last year with an eye on how much and where ad dollars went, and which ads were most widely circulated. 

The organization says that in total, the industry spent roughly $20 million pitching non-combustible products (NCP) in the U.S. between June and September last year. The spend was divided among print ($4,932,500), TV ($380,400), online ($194,536), and radio ($4,400), with the big spend dedicated for direct mail ads ($14,809,000), per Legacy.

The study, published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Journal by Legacy, notes that these products are the clear growth categories because of the taxes on regular cigarettes, and the fact that regulations in cities are closing off smoking spaces. Their promotional campaigns also evince an industry media trend away from point-of-purchase and display.

Legacy, which said that the industry spent $20 million on advertising  in the U.S. between June and September last year, used a pair of advertising firms to collect all U.S. advertisements for NCPs.

Legacy found that the lion's share was direct mail with about 90% including promotional offers or price discounts. The greatest spend -- $9.6 million -- was on snus, with Camel Snus the heaviest hitter. The study found that e-cigarette ads were the most widely circulated, with the products advertised through print, and television. Television is okay for e-cigarettes, but verboten for traditional cigarettes. And e-cigs had the highest number of eyeballs, per the study, which explained that the views are driven by 862 televised airings of ads for blu brand e-cigarettes.  

Legacy found that ads for Blu aired on national cable channels including the Outdoor Channel and the Weather Channel and on local TV stations in markets like Pittsburgh, Hartford, Boston, Los Angeles and New York City.

Print advertisements, which were principally for e-cigarettes and chew/dip/snuff products, were targeted to verticals appealing to white males. For the latter, the themes were guns, sports, cars and outdoor life. E-cigarette ads focused on safety, sexuality and sociability.  

Legacy says that the way the products are advertised may influence whether consumers use them to quit cigarettes or all tobacco use, or use them as a substitute for places where they can't smoke. Both commercial advertising and public health media campaigns must ensure that content is not misleading and educates consumers about harm based on the available science. 

Said Donna Vallone, SVP for research and evaluation at Legacy, in a statement: “This study is really the tip of the iceberg, as e-cigarettes are being seen more and more in everyday life and in advertising and promotion. We envisage more research will be needed down the road to see how advertising tactics evolve and how the public reacts to advertising and promotion of these products.”

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