The Federal Trade Commission reported Wednesday that marketing expenditures for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco rose by 3.4 percent between 2014 and 2015, from $8.6 billion to $8.9 billion. That’s $24 million each day and $1 million every hour spent to market tobacco products in the United States. Cigarette marketing increased by 2.6 percent to $8.2 billion, while smokeless tobacco marketingjumped by 14 percent to $684.9 million. About 94 percent of all tobacco marketing expenditures are spent on price discounts and other price-related promotions, which make tobacco products more affordable and appealing to price-sensitive kids.

Despite claims by tobacco companies that they have changed and are now focused on developing less harmful products, the FTC report shows that cigarettes still make up the bulk of their business, and the industry continues to spend billions to relentlessly market cigarettes, often in ways that appeal to kids. This report provides no evidence that tobacco companies have fundamentally stepped back from the cigarette business – because they haven’t.

The huge sums the industry spends on price discounts are especially troubling. A 2012 Surgeon General’s report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,concluded that “the industry’s extensive use of price-reducing promotions has led to higher rates of tobacco use among young people than would have occurred in the absence of these promotions.” In her 2006 ruling that cigarette manufacturers have violated civil racketeering laws and deceived the American public, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler concluded, “Defendants could significantly reduce adolescent smoking by… stopping all price related marketing.” The FTC report demonstrates they have done just the opposite.

To counter this barrage of tobacco marketing, elected officials at all levels must redouble efforts to implement proven strategies to reduce tobacco use. Significant tobacco tax increases and prohibitions on tobacco price discounts are particularly important in countering the industry’s harmful pricing schemes.

State and local officials should also support comprehensive smoke-free laws, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include hard-hitting media campaigns, and raising the tobacco age to 21. At the federal level, Congress should reject pending proposals in House appropriations bills that would weaken FDA oversight of tobacco products and cut funding for the CDC’s critical tobacco prevention and cessation programs. In addition, the FDA should move forward quickly with proposals to reduce the addictiveness and appeal of cigarettes, including limiting nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels and eliminating menthol cigarettes. While the U.S. has made enormous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. It kills more than 480,000 people and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. These deaths and costs are entirely preventable if elected officials fight tobacco use as aggressively as the tobacco companies market their deadly products.


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