Once a product rolls off the manufacturing line, it needs help to get to consumers. Tobacco companies must build the demand for products, particularly from new consumers. Marketing creates consumer demand, essentially inventing the reasons why a person would want to smoke a cigarette or use other tobacco products. Controlling the ability of the tobacco industry to spread favorable ideas about tobacco use is the essence of tobacco control efforts to regulate marketing. Closing off marketing channels to everyone has the primary benefit of shielding children from persuasive efforts that influence them to start smoking. While the tobacco industry always claims that their advertisements are not intended to appeal to children, they walk a fine line by aiming their marketing efforts to young adults, a group who children see as their closest peers and role models. Sometimes, such as by marketing tobacco like candy, tobacco companies cross this line.
The tobacco industry has found creative ways to market its products, including through attractive packaging and so-called “corporate social responsibility” campaigns wherein they seek to present themselves as positive contributors to society. Regulating these myriad marketing strategies is a central tobacco control strategy. Essentially, wherever the tobacco industry tries to change the message about what their products represent away from disease and death, tobacco control attempts to change the conversation firmly back to the essential facts of tobacco use: disease and death.
Tobacco companies typically respond to marketing restrictions by reallocating resources to the remaining open channels. For example, when the government prohibits magazine and billboard advertising, the industry simply moves to other strategies, such as direct mail, internet, point of sale, package branding and discounting. When regulation successfully eliminates all channels, the tobacco market will freeze up and dwindle over time. But we know that until every single channel for marketing is closed off, tobacco companies will try to spend their way around the problem because there is money to be made doing so. Thus, tobacco control must work relentlessly toward closing off every avenue available to tobacco companies to promote their destructive products. Such innovative anti-marketing efforts include requiring plain, standardized packaging of their products, and eventually plain, standardized products.