When most think of the tobacco industry in this nation, they think of one that is in decline. While Big Tobacco held incredible amount of influence and controlled significant mindshare among the citizens of this nation, this no longer remains the case.
Since the 90’s a combination of indisputable data linking tobacco as a direct cause of lung cancer, successful legal action in the form of class action lawsuits and state suites and aggressive public awareness campaigns by the government and independent agencies has resulted in a precipitous drop in both revenue and influence over the past 25 years in this country.
In response to domestic resistance as well as that from other developed nations, tobacco companies have extended the reach of influence to new and emerging markets around the world. The degree of market penetration in these nations could have significant public health consequences worldwide.
A research group at the The Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Hopkins School of Public Health has recently published a paper looking into the issue. Specifically, the researchers were investigating how tobacco marketing has impacted a child’s awareness of tobacco brands and products. Previous research has shown that awareness of tobacco products and their use at a young age can be used as a predictive factor for use later in life.
For this study, the researchers worked one on one with five to six-year-olds in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. Familiarity was assessed using a matching game where kids were asked to match logos spanning multiple industries and their corresponding products. The results were ill-boding. 85.9 percent percent of Chinese children between five to six-years-old could correctly identify at least one cigarette brand. The average Chinese child recorded nearly four brands.
Interestingly in India, China and Nigeria, children who lived in families with at least one tobacco user were not significantly more aware than children who did not. This suggests that in these regions, the surrounding environment and media may be the dominant contributor to tobacco brand awareness, as opposed to the immediate home environment.
There are strategies nations can employ to reduce the influence of tobacco marketing on children, such as limited advertising and clear warning labels. In addition, because many western countries have fought these battles already, affected nations have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and act against Big Tobacco before further harm is caused.