The Tobacco Industry agreed to marketing restrictions in the Master Settlement Agreement. That doesn’t mean they gutted their marketing budgets, took their toys, and went home.
The tobacco industry spends 11 billion dollars each year marketing tobacco, and 85% of that total… 9.5 billion dollars… is spent directly in retail stores on point-of-purchase advertising and marketing. Why? Because no restrictions on this type of advertising were included in the Master Settlement Agreement. As always, Big Tobacco finds the loophole and exploits it.
Now think about this: since 1,300,000 new teenagers start smoking every year, that means the tobacco industry is spending $8,500 dollars to recruit each new smoker, and $7,200 of that is spent to promote smoking in the retail outlets that our children visit on a regular basis!
We are not talking about 9.5 billion dollars worth of signs. A lot of those dollars are spent to discount prices (in the form of special prices or 2-for-the-price-of-1 promotions), which makes it more affordable for teenagers to smoke. A lot of those dollars are also spent reimbursing store owners for a position of prominence in the store; in fact, some store owners get as much as $1,000 each month for product placement.
The Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation is trying to raise awareness of this critical issue. We have found that one of the best ways is for students to actively evaluate the retail stores in their community. To accomplish this, we have coordinated research with StoreALERT.org (www.storealert.org). This organization has developed a scoring system to grade stores based on the level of tobacco advertising both inside and outside of retail outlets. Students can fill out StoreALERT Report Cards on local businesses and add their surveys to the national database. These powerful statistics can be used to support additional marketing restrictions on the tobacco industry.
Click here to see an example of what a single school can accomplish! If you are interested in having your students participate in this program, we would be happy to coordinate the project. Please contact Dr. Barry Hummel for more information.