Tobacco companies have successfully used basic and simple marketing tactics for years; even if it meant irreversible damage to society. It’s high time we beat them at their own game.

It’s interesting that rotting teeth, lungs infected with cancer and a slew of other horrendous and horrifying images will adorn cigarette packets in India from this month (June onwards). Another interesting development occurred in Washington a few days back. A federal appeals court upheld a landmark 2006 ruling on 22nd May that cigarette makers for decades have been lying about the dangers of smoking “In a 93-page opinion, a three- judge panel cleared the way for new restrictions on how cigarette companies market and sell their products,” stated the Washington Post. What is it that makes marketing and selling of cigarettes so different that it required a 93-page letter to help reduce their effect, if not stop it totally? What is that that these companies have been doing that’s so harmful to our society. What weapons do they use & what’s their game plan?

Advertising and marketing are nothing but means of persuading consumers to buy the desired brand or product and it’s the tobacco industry that seems to have mastered the art over the years. For, according to some surveys, about two thousand teenagers begin to smoke each day, inspite of the fact that smoking is the number one killer in preventable deaths in a nation. Yet it’s persuasive marketing & advertising that ensures that thousands bite the bait and buy these harmful products. This happens is because cigarette companies thrive on “Image Culture” and use it to the hilt to sell their wares.

The television was invented in the 1930’s and for many years, no one thought it had any use. They had the radio for their entertainment and if it tired them out, they all went to the movies. Who needed television – no one! What needed television – the economy. It needed the television to tell to the world, about life in a consumer society. It needed to show “Images” of success, progress, happiness. It’s the cigarette companies who learnt this lesson the best and used these images to camouflage the potent danger of their products. It chose its target audience cautiously and bombarded them with judiciously selected images. The target that was the best, the easiest and the fastest to convince was the “gullible teenagers”. A study revealed that what each teenager feared most was being labeled “uncool” and hence started the “marketing of cool”. This strategy proved to be most successful, for, according to 1981 internal document of Philip Morris (largest Cigarette Company in the world), “Today’s teenager is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while still in their teens. The smoking patterns of teenagers are particularly important to Philip Morris.” With the mission & vision statement clear, cigarette companies started targeting the vulnerable minds of teenagers through marketing schemes & campaigns. They bombarded them with images of “cool”. Tobacco companies used themes that appealed to the young minds; images of fun, action, excitement. Now you could look macho if you had a Marlboro in your hands. Strand Cigarette claimed “you’re never alone with a Strand”. “I’d walk a mile for Camel,” vowed many cigarette addicts. A women was successful if she held a Virginia Slims between her beautiful fingers for “You’ve come a long way” (read achieved success) if you smoked Virginia Slims. Sex appeal; cartoon characters, movie star status – every conceivable tool was used for years by tobacco companies to convince people that if you smoked, you had a life. Every claim of happiness was backed by a stunningly beautiful picture – that made every onlooker want a life like that. Worse still, it made smoking look like a fun activity – not a product that could kill.     Read More....

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