Tobacco Industry: Manipulating the Youth into a Lifelong Addiction (2020)

The tobacco industry causes a net loss to the global economy, annually costing USD 1.4 trillion in economic losses[1] and killing 8 million people; with a disproportionate impact in developing nations as over 80% of the 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).[2] Investment analysts estimate that the industry creates at least 5 times more societal costs than benefits.[3] Anti-fraud agencies have found evidence of tobacco companies complicity in smuggling[4] and bribery,[5] resulting in billions in lost revenue. Environmentalist have pointed out that cigarette butts are the most widely littered object in the oceans.[6] Human rights experts concluded that the tobacco industry must stop producing and marketing tobacco because it is “deeply harmful to human health” and irreconcilable with the human rights.[7]

Tobacco companies hook the vulnerable youth into starting a lifelong addiction through flavors and targeted marketing. The tobacco industry publicizes its so-called contributions to society while masking long term harms to the youth and society, keeping children in tobacco farms, and lobbying against policies that protect children.

  1. Hooking the Youth with Flavors: The tobacco companies develop a range of flavored products. Flavorings in tobacco products, such as fruit, candy, and mint mask the harsh taste of tobacco, and can make them more appealing to the youth.[8]
  2. Targeting the Youth: The tobacco industry views youth and young adults as its future loyal customers.Tobacco product use starts during adolescence and about 90% of cigarette smokers first try smoking by age 18.[9] All evidence points to the fact that tobacco industry’s marketing activities “recruit new users during their youth”.[10]
  3. Marketing to the Youth: The tobacco industry’s marketing activities have led young people to initiating smoking and vaping, prevented users from quitting, and increased tobacco use.[11]   These include playful product[12] and package design,[13] brand and corporate marketing,[14] point of sale[15],[16] and events marketing for a young crowd,[17] pricing strategies to keep products affordable to teens,[18] embedded marketing including product placement in movies targeted to kids,[19] digital marketing in platforms accessible by teens,[20] sports and culture sponsorships,[21] and so-called socially responsible activities that affect youth smoking behavior.[22] Tobacco advertising appeals to the youth because it reflects the aspirations of the youth such as “independence, liberation, attractiveness, adventurousness, sophistication, glamour, athleticism, social acceptability and inclusion, sexual attractiveness, thinness, popularity, rebelliousness, and being “cool”.”[23]
  4. Causing Lifelong Addiction: The tobacco industry retains as key ingredient in their products, nicotine, which is more addictive than cocaine or heroin.[24] Nicotine tricks the nerve cell into sending a message to release more dopamine which is passed on to give a feeling of “high”. The young brain creates more receptors to handle the anticipated nicotine, which leads teens to needing more nicotine to get the same high. Because the brain continues to develop until about age 25, the young brain can get addicted more easily than adults and lead to an increased risk of addiction to other substances.[25]
  5. Causing Psychiatric Disorders and Cognitive Impairment: The transnational tobacco companies have invested research in manipulating the effect of nicotine on the brain.[26] Nicotine affects parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory and, in the adolescent brain, the effect can become permanent.[27] Nicotine can also impair decision making ability in the long term and worsen anxiety,[28] irritability,[29] and impulsivity.[30]
  6. Lobbying against Tobacco Control Policies that Protect Youth: The tobacco industrylobbies against evidence-based life-saving tobacco control measures[31] such as ban on flavoring, packaging restrictions,[32] ban on all forms of advertising,[33] nicotine regulation, and increase in price through tax measures.[34] Governments have committed to implement these measures which are embodied in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), however, the tobacco industry poses the single greatest barrier to these efforts.[35] It intends to gain a seat at the table, pre-empt or influence regulation, or secure incentives from the government by making contributions or offering partnerships to government offices or officials, offering weak draft legislation, seeking appointments for its officials or allies, bribing public officials, hiring former public officials, funding front groups and scientists to voice its interests and to cloud the debate.[36]  Although the tobacco industry would purport to support legislation to restrict access to children, the interventions supported are typically ineffective ones.[37]
  7. Masking the Damage to Gain the Trust of a Young Market: The belief that tobacco companies are benefiting society gives it the credibility and legitimacy it needs to sell to a young market. Hence, it uses political and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to rehabilitate its image in the area of environment, human rights, science, agriculture, public health, disaster management, and development.[38] These activities also detract from the obligation to make the tobacco industry accountable[39] for all the harms caused, such as through policies and suits to recoup healthcare costs and other damages.[40]
  8. Keeping Children in Tobacco Farms: The tobacco industry casts an image of promoting sustainable tobacco farming while continuing to purchase leaves produced using child labor.[41] Child labor in tobacco thrusts children into a cycle of poverty by causing health harms and restricting access to education.[42] Instead of promoting a globally mandated shift towards alternative livelihood in accordance with the WHO FCTC, the tobacco industry seeks to justify tobacco growing and encourages tobacco dependence through contract farming.[43]

Across the world, governments have recognized that there is a fundamental conflict of interest between tobacco control and public health.[i] In 2015, the international community of nations committed to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and these goals include strengthening implementation of the WHO FCTC which obliges governments to protect public health policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry (WHO FCTC Article 5.3).[ii]  Pursuant to this obligation, governments and its officials must limit interaction with the tobacco industry unless strictly necessary for regulation, avoid conflicts of interest; reject partnerships and contributions from the tobacco industry; require the tobacco industry to be accountable and transparent in its operations including requiring the submission of all forms of marketing, public relations;  and lobbying  information; denormalize and regulate so-called “socially responsible” activities of the tobacco industry; and not give in any preferential treatment, benefits, or incentives. [iii] These measures are intended to empower governments to resist industry influence and lobbying against policies that protect the youth from tobacco industry’s manipulation.

[i] UN General Assembly (24 January 2012). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly – 66/2. Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/nmh/events/un_ncd_summit2011/political_declaration_en.pdf (accessed on 02 May 2020).

[ii] UNDP & WHO FCTC Secretariat (2017). The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control an Accelerator for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/hiv-aids/-the-who-framework-convention-on-tobacco-control-an-accelerator-.html (access on 02 May 2020).

[iii] WHO (2008). Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf (accessed on 18 April 2020). 

 

Published by: Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control    Download

 

[1] Goodchild M, et al. (2018). Global economic cost of smoking-attributable diseases. Tobacco Control. Vol. 27, pp. 58–64. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/tobaccocontrol/27/1/58.full.pdf (accessed on 07 May 2020).

[2] WHO (26 July 2019). Tobacco. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco (accessed on 07 May 2020).

[3] Deutsche Asset Management (September 2017). Tobacco’s Investment Returns and Societal Cost: A new perspective on tobacco engagement and divestment. Retrieved from https://download.dws.com/download?elib-assetguid=118b62adfa6f4f70832fb3b3ba3c0e38&kid=nat.20170908.general.
External_gb.editorial.ESG_tobacco_report_IV.mydbEuhkUsGBk9hI8dRATxVfVmBLcT
 (accessed on 25 May 2020) – “shows the Business and Sustainable Development Commission’s (2017 ) estimate that smoking is one of the largest societal economic burdens: USD 2.1 tn or 3% of global GDP, and this is only a partial estimate of smoking’s negative impacts.”

[4] Gilmore, A., Gallagher, A., and Rowell, A. (22 February 2019). Tobacco Industry’s Elaborate Attempts to Control a Global Track and Trace System and Fundamentally Undermine the Illicit Trade Protocol. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from  https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/28/2/127 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[5] Constantin, A. (22 March 2019). Tobacco Industry, Bribery and Anticorruption. O’Neill Institute.  Retrieved from https://oneill.law.georgetown.edu/tobacco-industry-bribery-and-anticorruption/ (25 May 2020); Bilton, R (30 November 2015). The secret bribes of big tobacco. BBC News. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34964603 (accessed on 25 May 25, 2020); Boseley, S (12 July 2017). Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/big-tobacco-dirty-war-africa-market (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[6] Ocean Conservancy (2019). The Beach and Beyond: 2019 Report. Retrieved from https://oceanconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Final-2019-ICC-Report.pdf (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[7] The Danish Institute for Human Rights (4 May 2017). Human Rights assessment in Philip Morris International. Retrieved from https://www.humanrights.dk/news/human-rights-assessment-philip-morris-international (accessed on 25 May 2020).  – “According to the UNGPs companies should avoid causing or contributing to adverse impacts on human rights. Where such impacts occur, companies should immediately cease the actions that cause or contribute to the impacts. Tobacco is deeply harmful to human health, and there can be no doubt that the production and marketing of tobacco is irreconcilable with the human right to health. For the tobacco industry, the UNGPs therefore require the cessation of the production and marketing of tobacco.”

[8] Li-Ling Huang et al. (1 November 2017). IImpact of Non-Menthol Flavours in Tobacco Products on Perceptions and Use among Youth, Young Adults and Adults: A Systematic Review. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/26/6/709 (accessed on 25 May 2020); Carrie M. Carpenter et al. (December 2005). New Cigarette Brands with Flavors That Appeal to Youth: Tobacco Marketing Strategies. Health Affairs (Project Hope). Retrieved from https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.24.6.1601 (accessed on 25 May 2020); Pepper, J., Ribisl, M., and Brewer, N. (1 November 2016). Adolescents’ Interest in Trying Flavoured e-Cigarettes. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/25/Suppl_2/ii62 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[9] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24455788/  (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[10] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. (2012). Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22876391/ (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[11] National Cancer Institute (2 March 2012). Monograph 19: The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use. Retrieved from  https://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/19/index.html (accessed on 22 May 2020).

[12] Carpenter, C et al. (2005).  New cigarette brands with flavors that appeal to youth: tobacco marketing strategies. Health Aff (Millwood). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16284034/ (25 May 2020).

[13] Ford, A. et al. (19 September 2013). Cigarette Pack Design and Adolescent Smoking Susceptibility: A Cross-Sectional Survey. BMJ Open. Retrieved from https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/9/e003282 (accessed on 25 May 2020). – “Pack structure (shape and opening style) and colour are independently associated, not just with appreciation of and receptivity to the pack, but also with susceptibility to smoke. In other words, those who think most highly of novelty cigarette packaging are also the ones who indicate that they are most likely to go on to smoke. Plain packaging, in contrast, was found to directly reduce the appeal of smoking to adolescents.”

[14] Hafez, N. and Ling, P. (1 September 2005). How Philip Morris Built Marlboro into a Global Brand for Young Adults: Implications for International Tobacco Control. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/14/4/262 (accessed on 25 May 2020); Astuti, P., Assunta, M. and Freeman, B. (1 July 2018). Raising Generation ‘A’: A Case Study of Millennial Tobacco Company Marketing in Indonesia. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/27/e1/e41 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[15] Mackintosh, A. (2012). The association between point-of-sale displays and youth smoking susceptibility. Nicotine Tob Res. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21908461/ (accessed on 25 May 25, 2020).

[16] Sargent, J., et al. (15 December 2001). Effect of Seeing Tobacco Use in Films on Trying Smoking among Adolescents: Cross Sectional Study. BMJ (Clinical research ed). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC60983/  (accessed on 25 May 2020); McCool, J., Cameron, L. Petrie, K. (2001). Adolescent Perceptions of Smoking Imagery in Film. Social Science & Medicine. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11314853/ (accessed on 25 May 25, 2020); McCool, J., Cameron, L., and Petrie, K. (2003). Interpretations of smoking in film by older teenagers. Soc Sci Med. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12593875/ (accessed on 25 May 2020)

[17] Sepe, E., Ling, P., and Glantz, S. (1 March 2020). Smooth Moves: Bar and Nightclub Tobacco Promotions That Target Young Adults. American Journal of Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447091/ (25 May 2020) ; Hafez, N. and Ling, P. (1 September 2005). How Philip Morris Built Marlboro into a Global Brand for Young Adults: Implications for International Tobacco Control. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/14/4/262 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[18] Liang, L. and Chaloupka, F. (1 February 2020). Differential Effects of Cigarette Price on Youth Smoking Intensity. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ntr/article-abstract/4/1/109/1058963?redirectedFrom=fulltext (accessed on 25 May 2020); Powell, L., Tauras, J. and Ross, H. (1 September 2005). The Importance of Peer Effects, Cigarette Prices and Tobacco Control Policies for Youth Smoking Behavior. Journal of Health Economics. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15990184/ (25 May 2020); Ross, H. and Chaloupka, F. (18 February 2003). The Effect of Cigarette Prices on Youth Smoking. Health Economics. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hec.709 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[19] Polansky, J. and Glantz, S. (1 April 2020). What Is Hollywood Hiding?. University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3pw661mg (accessed on 25 May 2020); Gibson, B. and Maurer, J. (31 July 2006). Cigarette Smoking in the Movies: The Influence of Product Placement on Attitudes Toward Smoking and Smokers. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2000.tb02530.x (accessed on 25 May 2020);  Kar-Hai Chu et al. (1 September 2017). Vaping on Instagram: Cloud Chasing, Hand Checks and Product Placement. Tobacco Control. Retrieved from https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/26/5/575 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[20] Leatherdale, S., Sparks, R, and Kirsh, V. (June 2006). Beliefs about tobacco industry (mal) practices and youth smoking behaviour: insight for future tobacco control campaigns (Canada). Cancer Causes Control. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16633918/ (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[21] Vaidya, S., Naik, U. and Vaidya, J. (1 September 1996). Effect of Sports Sponsorship by Tobacco Companies on Children’s Experimentation with Tobacco. BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.). Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/313/7054/400 (accessed on 25 May 2020); World Health Organization. (14 March 2019). WHO Urges Governments to Enforce Bans on Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship, Including in Motor Sport. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/14-03-2019-who-urges-governments-to-enforce-bans-on-tobacco-advertising-promotion-and-sponsorship-including-in-motor-sport (accessed on 19 May 2020); Egbe, C., et al. (22 November 2014). An Exploratory Study of the Socio-Cultural Risk Influences for Cigarette Smoking among Southern Nigerian Youth. BMC Public Health. Retrieved from https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-14-1204 (accessed on 25 May 2020).

[22] Leatherdale, S., Sparks, R, and Kirsh, V. (June 2006). Beliefs about tobacco industry (mal) practices and youth smoking behaviour: insight for future tobacco control campaigns (Canada). Cancer Causes Control. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16633918/ (accessed on 25 May 2020). – “Occasional and regular smoking behaviour was significantly related to student beliefs about tobacco companies doing good things in the community, manipulating young people to think smoking is cool, advertising to youth, and using athletes and sports sponsorships to get young people to smoke.”

[23] National Cancer Institute (2 March 2012). Monograph 19: The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use. Retrieved from  https://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/19/index.html (accessed on 22 May 2020).

[24] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1998). The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. DHHS Publication No. (CDC) 88-8406.

[25] Goriounova, N. A., & Mansvelder, H. D. (2012). Short- and long-term consequences of nicotine exposure during adolescence for prefrontal cortex neuronal network function. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543069/#s1title (accessed on 25 May 2020). – “The prefrontal cortex, the brain area responsible for executive functions and attention performance, is one of the last brain areas to mature and is still in the process of developing during adolescence. This places the adolescent brain in a vulnerable state of imbalance, susceptible to the influence of psychoactive substances such as nicotine. In prefrontal networks nicotine modulates information processing on multiple levels by activating and desensitizing nicotine receptors on different cell types and in this way affects cognition. The adolescent brain is particularly sensitive to the effects of nicotine. Studies in human subjects indicate that smoking during adolescence increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment in later life. In addition, adolescent smokers suffer from attention deficits, which aggravate with the years of smoking.”

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[28] Naomi Breslau, M. Marlyne Kilbey, and Patricia Andreski, “Nicotine Dependence, Major Depression, and Anxiety in Young Adults,” Archives of General Psychiatry 48, no. 12 (December 1, 1991): 1069–74, https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.1991.01810360033005.

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