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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia: Study Finds Differences in Storefront Tobacco Advertising by Product Type

In response to U.S. restrictions on where tobacco companies can advertise their products, the industry now dedicates nearly all of its $9 billion advertising budget to the retail setting. A study at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health fills an important gap by documenting characteristics of storefront tobacco advertisements in the context of today’s diverse tobacco product landscape. Findings are in Preventive Medicine.

“The mechanisms through which tobacco advertising in retail settings influence product use are not well understood,” said Dr. Daniel Giovenco, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences. “The aim of our study was to describe how ad features vary across product categories, and how this may contribute to consumer behavior.”

The researchers analyzed 1,000 photos of storefront tobacco ads from a representative sample of 796 licensed tobacco retailers in New York City between July and October 2017. Cigarettes were the most commonly advertised product (40 percent of ads), followed by electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) (28 percent), cigars (27 percent), and smokeless tobacco (5 percent). Nearly a quarter of all ads were for Newport cigarettes, a brand commonly used by African American smokers.

Although cigarette ads took up a larger amount of window space compared to other products, cigar and ENDS ads were more commonly placed directly on the door of entry, potentially making them more noticeable to consumers. Tobacco ads were frequently displayed next to other “vice” products — ads for sugary drinks and lottery tickets. Importantly, advertising features did not always align with local or federal tobacco control policies — 10 percent of cigarette ads did not contain a warning label, despite a federal mandate.

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