In the movies, drug dealers give away free samples in order to get users hooked. In real life, tobacco companies pursue this very strategy to transform young adults into lifelong tobacco users. The industry also uses aggressive sponsorship campaigns to glamorize its deadly product. Let’s take a look at the tactics and key terms related to this core industry strategy.
FUBYAs – If there’s one thing the tobacco industry never skimps on, it’s market research. After decades of studying young adults age 21 and under, tobacco companies have learned that young adult smokers tend to stick with the first brand of cigarettes they smoke regularly. “First Usual Brand, Young Adult Smokers” or “FUBYAs” are the subject of intense marketing efforts by the tobacco industry.
Cigarette Fairies – Cigarette Fairies are attractive young adults hired to promote tobacco at bars, clubs and events. Their job is to collect personal information from potential customers by scanning driver’s licenses and give away free products to budding tobacco users. Once the personal information has been collected, tobacco companies aggressively market through the mail with other contests, giveaways, and gimmicks. The tactic is so effective at creating new addicts that cigarette fairies can earn an attractive living. Recently R.J. Reynolds offered new “sales representatives” $41,652 yearly plus $4,165 in bonuses, a company car and a cell phone allowance.
Product Giveaways – Whether it’s clubs, bars, concerts or parties, cigarette fairies are sent just about everywhere they aren’t prohibited by law. They frequent bars and nightclubs in the early morning hours, and they’re even known to attend fraternity parties. After infiltrating these venues, cigarette fairies give away free products to grateful young smokers who are frequently short on cash.
Sponsorships – Under new regulations that went into effect in 2010, tobacco companies cannot sponsor events under the brand name of their products. However, they are still allowed to promote events under their corporate names. Spectator sports, fairs, festivals, rodeos and racing events are all favorite targets for tobacco industry sponsorships. A study by the Cancer Research Campaign found that boys are twice as likely to become regular smokers if they are racing fans.
Outreach Events – In addition to attending existing events and venues, tobacco companies often sponsor their own branded events. For example, RJ Reynolds has sponsored “Girls’ Night Out” events where young women receive free cigarettes, massages, hairstyling, gift bags, makeup, jewelry and other Camel-branded items.
What’s the lesson?
From targeting our youth to infiltrating community events, tobacco companies have embedded themselves in the fabric of American life. It’s all a part of their strategy to recruit new generations of addicted tobacco users. By understanding the tactics they employ to recruit new smokers, you’ll be better prepared to combat the industry’s influence on your community, your loved ones, your health and your life.