Big Budget to Target New Tobacco Users

Tobacco Companies Spend Billions to Market Their Products

Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year to market, advertise and promote their products. Because fewer adults are smoking today, tobacco companies also heavily market products to young people to encourage them to try their products and continue using them.1 The industry uses a variety of marketing tactics, all aimed at influencing audiences to find their products appealing and socially desirable.

There’s a reason companies spend all of this money on advertising—it works. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is a direct relationship between the advertising and promotional efforts of tobacco companies and the initiation and progression of tobacco use among young people.3

The majority of marketing expenditures for tobacco companies includes:

  • Price discounts paid to retailers and wholesalers to reduce the price of cigarettes to consumers
  • Promotional allowances paid to retailers, such as payments for stocking, shelving, displaying and merchandising particular brands
  • Promotional allowances paid to wholesalers, such as payments for volume rebates, incentive payments, value-added services and promotions

In 2018, cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent approximately the following on marketing in the U.S. alone: 

  • $25 million each day
  • $28 for every person, children included
  • $265 per year for each U.S. adult tobacco user

Targeting Specific Populations

Tobacco companies target several populations, including youth and young adults, women, African-Americans and racial and ethnic communities with marketing for their products.

Youth and Young Adults

Tobacco ads make smoking and vaping appear appealing to increase the desire to smoke. Tobacco companies also have a long history of developing and marketing flavored tobacco products as starter products that attract kids. These products undermine the nation’s efforts to reduce youth tobacco use and put young adults at risk of nicotine addiction.


Tobacco companies continue to produce brands specifically for women, using marketing tactics dominated by themes of empowerment, desirability and independence that often feature slim, attractive and athletic models.

Black Community

The tobacco industry has a long history of going to great lengths to target the Black community. Decades of research affirms patterns of strategic marketing to Black people through point-of-sale marketing, price discounts, branding and traditional advertising venues, particularly for mentholated, cigars and cigarillos. Strategies also include campaigns that use urban culture and language, tobacco-sponsored hip-hop bar nights with free samples and direct mail promotions.

Racial and Ethnic Communities

The advertisement of particular products and brands appear to target members of racial and minority communities. For example, marketing to Hispanics, American Indians and Alaskan Natives has included the promotion of cigarette brands with names like Rio, Dorado and American Spirit. Other tactics include sponsorship of cultural festivals or activities related to Heritage Months, heavy billboard and in-store advertisements in predominantly urban Asian American communities, and financial and in-kind contributions to ethnic community organizations.

Marketing to Youth and Disadvantaged Communities

Tobacco companies are creative in using location targeting to advertise to their target populations. Documents obtained from tobacco companies show evidence that corporate marketers target convenience stores, grocery stores and other tobacco vendors near schools and playgrounds in an effort to attract young tobacco.

Research shows that schools with more stores within walking distance have higher smoking prevalence than schools with fewer retailers nearby.2 Researchers also found that the closer retailers were located to a public high school, the more likely they were to display exterior tobacco advertising.5

In addition, there’s a higher density of tobacco-retailers in low-income neighborhoods which results in more exposure to point-of-sale advertising. In particular—there are more tobacco retailers near schools in low-income areas than in other areas.

Countering the Message

Many organizations are working to counter tobacco product ads through TV and radio commercials, posters and other media messages aimed at kids and teens.

Learn how you can take action at home, on your campus and in your community for tobacco prevention and cessation for youth. You can also learn more about what the State is doing to work toward a tobacco-free Louisiana. Join the Tobacco-Free Louisiana Coalition to get involved in making changes.


CounterTobacco.Org is a comprehensive resource for local, state and federal organizations working to counteract tobacco product sales and marketing at the point of sale. The site offers evidence-based descriptions of the problem, policy solutions, advocacy materials, news updates and an image gallery exposing tobacco industry tactics at the point of sale.


1 Surgeon General Report: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, 2012. Retrieved from


3 HHS, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2012,

4 HHS, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014,

5 Counter Tobacco. Retrieved from