Kids and Young Adults

Hooking the Next Generation

Big Tobacco doesn’t wait for a kid to grow up. They know that the younger someone starts to use tobacco, the harder it will be to quit. Nearly 90 percent of people who smoke start before they turn 18.14 Targeting young people is an effective strategy, since teenagers’ brains are still developing and vulnerable to the highly addictive nicotine present in all tobacco products.15

The truth is, where you see a young person, tobacco companies see a “replacement smoker.”16
(That’s a direct quote from an R.J. Reynolds research report. Seven thousand Oregonians die as a result of tobacco use every year. Big Tobacco needs someone to take their place.)
Our Kids:
Big Tobacco’s Target, Then and Now
Big Tobacco starts the pursuit long before kids get to the cash register, with sponsorships and logos at fairs and car races they attend first with mom and dad. Smoking is still cool – and prevalent – in youth-rated movies.17 For decades, the industry has been using child actors, celebrities and Joe Camel to make smoking seem like the most normal thing in the world.
Stores That Sell Tobacco:
The New Battleground
But that’s nothing compared to what Big Tobacco has done to the average small grocery, convenience store or gas station, where the “powerwall” displays of tobacco brands, strategic product placement, price promotions that drive down the cost of tobacco, and countless varieties of candy-flavored tobacco products are designed to be irresistible to young people who are new to smoking. The industry knows that 70 percent18 of teens shop in convenience stores at least once a week, and it’s ready for them—and their younger siblings. Billboards and TV advertising may be a thing of the past, but Big Tobacco simply shifted their cash into corner stores and groceries, where they now spend more on advertising than they did before the industry was regulated: About one million dollars per hour, nationwide.19 Studies show stores located near schools have more exterior ads for tobacco than stores farther away, while stores where teens shop more frequently have more cigarette marketing than others in the same community.20 Inside, kids and teens are bombarded with relentless point-of-sale signs, and tobacco products are routinely displayed at a child’s eye level or near the candy. Finally, Big Tobacco drives down the price of a pack of cigarettes with targeted promotions and payments to retailers that make it inexpensive to light up.

Tobacco companies can’t market their products to kids.

In several recent county-wide assessments of Oregon stores that sell tobacco, branded tobacco signs were displayed below 3 feet (eye level of a child), and tobacco products were for sale within 12 inches of candy, mints, or gum.24 For emerging products that appeal to kids, such as e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco and dissolvable tobacco sticks, strips and orbs, there are no marketing restrictions on tobacco companies.

Among Oregon 8th graders, half feel that it would be easy to get tobacco if they wanted to.

img_80_percentThe majority of 11th graders (80 percent) feel the same.25

Easy Access To
Tobacco and Free Samples
A majority (80 percent)21 of Oregon high school juniors say they can easily get tobacco, and the most frequent source is their friends who are over 18.22 These are young adults, who also are targeted by Big Tobacco, in part because kids emulate them and want to copy their behavior. The industry lures these new customers by giving away samples of tobacco, a practice known as “sampling.” Tobacco companies collect personal information from young people at sampling events and follow up by mailing coupons to their homes. Washington State and many cities in California completely prohibit tobacco sampling, but Oregon only prohibits sampling to people under 18 years old, and there are no limits on sampling of e-cigarette liquids. Sampling is particularly widespread at e-cigarette shops across the state. (More restrictions apply to smokeless tobacco: Free samples may not be given to anyone under the age of 21 or distributed in any area in which people under the age of 21 are allowed).23 Nevertheless, without further restrictions on tobacco sampling, Oregon will remain the tobacco industry’s test market of choice on the West Coast—and Big Tobacco will continue to target young Oregonians.

Tobacco products other than cigarettes are not a significant threat to Oregon teens.

About 18 percent of Oregon 11th graders use non-cigarette tobacco products (smokeless tobacco including chew, dip, snuff and snus; cigars and little cigars, hookah tobacco, dissolvable tobacco sticks, strips and orbs, and e-cigarettes). About 10 percent of 11th-graders smoke cigarettes. 26