Cigarette ads can fuel teens' smoking desires

According to the study, the particular content of tobacco marketing resonates with youth and that the vivid imagery in tobacco advertising captures their interest, although teens typically are more resistant to the promotional seduction of other products.
“Cigarettes have created a brand for every personality trait,” study lead author Reiner Hanewinkel, PhD, director of the Institute for Therapy and Health Research in Kiel, Germany, said.
“If you are looking to project independence and masculinity, think of the lonely cowboy in the Marlboro ads.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to project a desire for romantic relationships, and friendships are playing a role, then you will choose Lucky Strike if you are a man and if you are a woman,” Hanewinkel, who collaborated with Dartmouth Medical School, added.
Kids with high exposure to tobacco advertising were twice as likely to have tried smoking and three times as likely to have smoked in the past month, compared to those with low exposure.
Exposure to tobacco advertising also was associated with higher intent to smoke in the future among the never-smokers, suggesting that it affects how adolescents perceive smoking even before they start.
The study has relevance for the United States and other nations with partial advertising bans similar to Germany’s restrictions.
The 2008 survey involved 3,415 German schoolchildren, ages 10 to 17, in rural and urban areas. Students saw images (with all the writing and brand logos removed) of six cigarette ads and eight commercial products such as clothing, cars, candy and detergent.
With the brand information missing, researchers measured adolescents’ ad recognition by applying psychological assumptions about attention and memory.
They inquired about how frequently students had viewed each ad image and asked about smoking habits and intentions.
“We were amazed at how often they had seen the images and could correctly recall the cigarette brand,” study collaborator James Sargent, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth, said.
“For example, 55 per cent had seen the Lucky Strike image and almost one quarter correctly decoded the brand,” he stated.
After analysing the data, the researchers assessed how likely non-smokers were to try smoking.
Researchers classified survey participants as current smokers if they reported smoking at least once a month.
“This is a well-done study. They controlled for all the things they needed to control for,” Stanton Glantz, PhD, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education at the University of California, San Francisco, said.
The study appears online and in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Cigar sales see worldwide slump

The Cuban cigar has historically been a status symbol among wealthy businessmen and, for Americans, forbidden fruit. But the recession has forced many to rethink their spending on amenities, and Cuban cigar sales plummeted last year. As a result, cigar producers and local cigar bars have begun targeting a new and perhaps unlikely segment of smokers: women.
More than 30 million cigars are sold annually in the Czech Republic, according to the General Directorate of Customs, adding up to millions of crowns in profits for the industry and, for the government, about 10 million Kč ($521,376) annually in taxes. But cigars are losing their luster for some smokers as the realities of economic recession set in.
The Habanos group, producer of popular Cuban cigar brands such as Cohiba and Romeo y Julieta, registered a turnover of $360 million in 2009, an 8 percent decline that is not lost on Czech cigar distributor Peter Forman.
“I’ve seen a 10 percent to 15 percent fall in midrange cigars and a 30 percent fall in lower end, machine-made cigars,” he said.
Cigar culture has become increasingly popular in the Czech Republic since 1995, when Forman became the first importer and distributor of Cuban cigars in the country. Thanks in part to Forman’s marketing efforts, cigar bars and humidors have popped up throughout Prague as business culture embraces the experience of a Cuban cigar, the most popular of which sell for between 700 Kč and 1,000 Kč.
“Once we began introducing Cuban cigars to middle and high society, they became quite popular, and sales increased rapidly,” he said.
Forman remained the largest Cuban cigar distributor on the Czech market until 2006, when Tabak Invest signed an exclusive contract to distribute Habanos cigars in the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian markets. According to Petra Amis, spokeswoman for Tabak Invest, Cuban cigar sales have slumped most significantly in Hungary.
A sales decline in the Czech Republic has mostly affected less expensive Habanos cigars, Amis said, adding that, amid sinking sales, one of the keys to Cuban cigars’ long-term stability has become clear.
“People who can afford to smoke Cuban cigars regularly will always have money to buy them,” she said.
People may be buying fewer cigars, but, when they do, they still tend to choose Cuban brands, according to Amis, who said “premium Cuban cigars market themselves.” This has been good news for Prague’s smoke shops and Cuban cigar bars, including Bar and Books in Old Town, which sells a variety of Cuban cigars ranging from 300 Kč to 1,100 Kč.
Martina Peštová, manager of Bar and Books, said its core clientele of cigar-smoking businessmen has kept business steady over the past year. But a drop in tourism has had a noticeable effect on the number of foreign customers who are willing to pay for premium goods, she added.
“We don’t see any tourists with money these days,” she said.
The price of cigars depends on the quality of the tobacco, the style of rolling and the length, with longer cigars typically being more expensive. Peštová said people are not only buying fewer cigars, but many have changed their cigar of choice.
“I’ve had to shorten the length of cigars we offer because we have a problem selling the longer cigars,” she said.
Falling sales of some types of Cuban cigars have led to more significant changes in the shape and sizes of cigars being produced, as many companies begin reaching out to women, a portion of the smoking population that has, until now, remained untapped.
The Habanos group has announced a new focus on thinner, milder cigars aimed at women, who make up only 5 percent of the Czech cigar-smoking population, according to Forman. At the same time, Bar and Books has begun offering a weekly ladies’ night, where women get complimentary cigars. The events are gaining popularity – according to Peštová, they give away about eight cigars per week – but the female-smoker segment remains a decided minority, she said.
“Some of the ladies smoke the cigars, but many of them take one puff and give it to their boyfriends,” she said.
Such concerted efforts to attract new customers could prove popular, but cigar companies will have to overcome a stigma – and lack of knowledge – among female puffers, Peštová said.
“Occasionally, women will come in to smoke a cigar with their rich boyfriends and show how ‘sophisticated’ they are, but most women have no idea what they are smoking,” she said.
March 3, 2010
By Stephan Delbos, Praguepost

General Electric to go tobacco-free in 2011

A year ago, General Electric Co. promised financial incentives to U.S. employees who kicked the smoking habit.GE do smoke free
Now, the company is going a step further, launching a new policy that would make all the company’s work sites tobacco-free by this time in 2011.
There are some other differences between then and now.
For one thing, the Connecticut-based company, one of the world’s largest, is addressing only at-work behavior.
Employees won’t be asked to sign a tobacco-free pledge that extends beyond the workplace, said Stephan Koller, a spokesman for GE Transportation, based in Lawrence Park Township.
But they will be asked to refrain from using tobacco of all kinds on company property.
After the success of a 2008 experiment in which GE offered a $750 cash incentive for employees who quit smoking, the company began offering a $625 discount on health-insurance premiums for nonsmoking employees earlier this year.
The smoking ban, set to take effect companywide on March 1, 2011 — sooner at some locations — is motivated by two things, Koller said.
“It’s helping our employees and their dependents — helping them make healthier choices that will improve their quality of life,” he said.
At the same time, he said, “It addresses health-care costs that have spiraled out of control.”
The company has yet to work out all the details on turning dozens of GE sites into smoke-free zones. Smoking is already prohibited inside company buildings, but many employees now step outside to smoke in designated areas during their breaks.
“We are at the front end of the process,” Koller said. “We are going to work hand-in-hand with our employees to see what is the best way to implement this.”
GE’s move is far from unprecedented. Two other large Erie employers, Hamot Medical Center and Saint Vincent Health Center, prohibit the use of tobacco both inside and outside.
Koller vowed that GE Transportation won’t impose a new rule on its 4,000 Erie employees without offering some assistance.
“The overall direction is in place,” Koller said. “We have to see what this means to Transportation. How do we get employees to wean themselves off tobacco products? There is going to be an education effort.”
And while there might not be any cash payments to ease the pain of quitting, Koller said incentives will take the form of lower health-care premiums for employees who kick the habit.
Employees aren’t the only ones with money at stake.
A report by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that works to improve the health-care system, estimates the annual health-care tab for cigarette smoking at $75 billion.
The foundation, which highlighted research done on smoking cessation at GE, said the average employer saves $3,400 a year for each employee who gives up cigarettes.
Local 506 of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, GE Transportation’s main union, is expected to meet today to discuss its stance on the company’s plans.
A union spokesman said that in broad terms, however, “Keeping our people safe and keeping them healthy is a priority of unions.”
JIM MARTIN can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail.