POINT OF SALE CIGARETTE ADVERTISING
- September 9, 2018
Depending on how old you are, you might recall that cigarette advertisements used to be everywhere. You’d see them on television, radio, in print, on billboards, and even on race cars. This changed in 1998, with something called the Master Settlement Agreement, which was a litigation settlement between a number of U.S. states and major cigarette manufacturers. Although advertising for tobacco products has been severely curtailed compared to what it used to be, there are still plenty of ways for companies to get the word out.
The Master Settlement Agreement came out of litigation wherein forty-six states, and six other U.S. jurisdictions, sued the largest cigarette manufacturers. They argued, among other things, that cigarettes contributed to health problems that imposed significant costs on state healthcare systems. As a result of the settlement, the manufacturers have to pay money to the states each year in perpetuity, but important to our purposes here, they were seriously limited in how they could market and advertise their products. For one thing, they were no longer allowed to use cartoons or anything else that might target kids in their advertisements. They also can’t use outdoor advertising, sponsorships, branded merchandise, or promotions.
One thing that is still allowed, which many people argue shouldn’t be, is point of sale advertising. Point of sale means anything that tries to get you to buy a product at the cash register. Have you ever been standing in line to check out and been suddenly tempted to buy a pack of gum, a candy bar, or a drink? What about that magazine that promises to help you lose 10 pounds in a week, that never would have bought if you weren’t stuck standing there looking at it? The same goes for tobacco products. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the amount that Americans spend at the point of sale has increased every year since 1967, and tobacco is no exception.
You might have noticed that most stores keep a cigarette display behind the counter. There are practical reasons for this, of course, like keeping people from stealing the products and making sure that no one can pick them up until the cashier has confirmed they’re over 18 (or 21, in some places). At the same time, however, you’re standing there looking at shelf after shelf of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and vaping devices, in all the different colored packaging and various flavors, and if you were on the fence about purchasing anything, odds are that’s going to be enough to tip you over. Tobacco manufacturers also offer price discounts to retailers for selling and advertising their products at the point of sale.
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