Lead author Samir Soneji, PhD, Norris Cotton Cancer Center researcher and assistant professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice said that for several years, the emphasis in the tobacco industry has been on direct marketing, especially to young people who are highly price sensitive and who may find coupons, samples, and promotions appealing.
Soneji's research team explored whether exposure to tobacco coupons and websites would increase the chances that a young person would start to smoke.
They found that overall, 12 percent of 15- to-17-year olds and 26 percent of 18- to-23-year olds were exposed to either form of direct-to-consumer tobacco marketing. Results indicated that black and Hispanic youth are exposed more frequently than white by direct marketing methods.
Direct marketing includes coupons and ads sent through the mail or posted on the web, as well as in-store displays and signs. These spheres, known as direct-to-consumer and point-of-purchase marketing, are not regulated, but are commonly used by manufacturers. In 2010, the tobacco industry spent 236 million dollars in cigarette coupons and 22 million dollars in Internet marketing. Some of this Internet marketing infiltrates social media, which is widely consumed by teens and young adults. Since younger consumers are more "price sensitive" to the high cost of tobacco products, a web ad offering a coupon could be perceived very favorably.
Teens and young adults, who live in a household with a smoker, may face increased exposure to direct marketing in the form of mailed ads and coupons.
The study has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.