One of the most insidious revelations in the monumental 2006 federal racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco industry, U.S. v. Philip Morris, was the extent to which different tobacco companies at different times over the last fifty years intentionally marketed to children under the age of twenty-one with the express purpose of recruiting “replacement smokers” to ensure the economic future of the industry.
The targeting of minors, via advertisements and promotions, has been a longstanding strategy of the industry, and the focus of much legislation, regulation, and litigation. The 1998 Minnesota and Master Tobacco Settlements, and the recent federal legislation regulating tobacco, all restrict marketing, including advertising and sponsorship activities, that targets children. To date, despite legal and regulatory measures, the tobacco industry continually finds ways to attract children to its products – such as smokeless tobacco products that resemble gumdrops, candy or fruit-flavored products – via avenues such as online marketing. (See additional information on Firesafe Cigarettes, Flavored Products, and Other Tobacco Products.]
Another common industry tactic is the false marketing of products, such as “low tar / light” cigarettes, as less harmful than full-flavor cigarettes. Recent rulings in class actions against tobacco companies for misleading customers in “light” or “low yield” cigarette promotions may signal growing judicial impatience with this type of deceptive advertising.
This section covers common tobacco advertising and retail marketing tactics, and related law and policy obstacles and options.