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Cigarette Brand Preferences: start young and focus on 3 brands.

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When you look at the cigarette counter at a supermarket or even a chain pharmacy you will typically see a wall of cigarettes and advertising placards touting dozens of types of cigarettes. However, although there are actually hundreds of different brands, and at least 25 different brands that are widely available, sales of cigarettes focus very much on just a few brands.

This is particularly noticeable in children, for whom almost all the sales focus on just 3 brands (can you guess what they are?). The other thing that is very noticeable is how brand preferences vary dramatically by ethnic/racial groupings. A massive ongoing study run by University of Michigan called, “Monitoring the Future” has been tracking youth smoking and other substance use over many years and has produced some fascinating data. For example, it has found that 65% of white youth smokers smoke Marlboro (as do 60% of Latino and only 8% of African American youth smokers), whereas 75% of African American kids who smoke prefer Newport (a mentholated brand), which is smoked by only 12% of whites and 20% of Latino youth smokers. The only other brand with any recognition in 1998 was Camel, which was smoked by 9% of white youth smokers. The full breakdown as of 1998 can be seen at:
http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/tables/cigbrands/table1.html

These patterns persist in smokers aged 12 or over (including adults) in a national survey carried out in 2005, with whites and Latinos preferring Marlboro, and African Americans preferring Newport. The main (fairly small) differences in that study were increased market penetration among African Americans for the “Kool” brand (11%, also a menthol), and increased market share for “discount” brands (eg Doral and Basic). The most recent data can be found at: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k7/cigBrands/cigBrands.htm

If you would like to know why brand preferences are concentrated in this way, then visiting the website: www.trinketsandtrash.org may give you a clue. This site contains a collection of tobacco advertising and memorabilia and is a good tool for tracking the activities of vector in this epidemic: the tobacco industry.

I’d be interested in hearing your reasons for your brand preferences and if any ads influenced you.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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