FTC reports pull back smoke on 2014 tobacco product advertising

While the amount spent on cigarette advertising and promotion decreased from $8.95 billion in 2013 to $8.49 billion in 2014, spending on advertising and promotion of smokeless tobacco products in the U.S. increased from $503.2 million in 2013 to $600.8 million in 2014, according to reports released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on cigarette and smokeless tobacco marketing expenditures for 2014. The FTC reports also indicated a drop in the number of cigarettes sold by large cigarette companies to wholesalers and retailers—256.7 billion in 2013 to 253.8 billion in 2014.


The data on cigarette manufacturers’ expenditures comes from special reports submitted to the FTC by the largest cigarette manufacturers through a compulsory process. Those manufacturers include: Altria Group, Inc.; Commonwealth Brands, Inc.; Lorillard, Inc.; Reynolds American, Inc.; and Vector Group Ltd.The largest portion of the $8.49 billion spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes was “price discounts” paid by manufacturers to retailers in order to reduce the “consumer price” of cigarettes. Those price discounts represented $5.56 billion or 65 percent of advertising and promotional spending for cigarettes in 2014. The FTC requires the manufacturers to report the expenditures on advertisements directed towards youth which are intended to reduce youth smoking. In 2014 the manufacturers spent $1.7 million on such advertisements.

Smokeless tobacco

The smokeless tobacco report is, like the cigarette report, comprised of data submitted to the FTC by the largest smokeless tobacco product manufacturers through a compulsory process. Those manufacturers include: Altria Group, Inc.; North Atlantic Trading Company, Inc.; Reynolds American, Inc.; Swedish Match North America, Inc.; and Swisher International Group, Inc. The total amount of smokeless tobacco sold by the manufacturers to wholesalers and retailers dropped slightly from 128.04 million pounds in 2013 to 127.81 million pounds in 2014. Over the same period, sales revenues for those manufacturers increased from $3.26 billion to $3.42 billion. According to the FTC report, the largest smokeless tobacco companies reported spending $852,000 in 2014 on advertisements intended to reduce youth use of smokeless tobacco products.

Smokeless doesn’t mean harmless: educating white rural teenage males

The FDA has announced that messages on the dangers of nicotine addiction, gum disease, tooth loss, and multiple kinds of cancer from smokeless tobacco use will be highlighted through the agency’s placement of advertisements in 35 U.S. markets.

The advertisements (using television, radio, print, public signs, billboards, digital advertising, and social media) are part of the agency’s award-winning The Real Cost campaign (launched in 2014) to educate rural, white male teenagers about the negative health consequences associated with smokeless tobacco use. The central message of the campaign is “smokeless doesn’t mean harmless,” which aims to motivate these teenagers to reconsider what they think they know about smokeless tobacco use.

The campaign messaging focuses on cosmetic and health consequences, loss of control due to addiction, and the danger of chemicals found in smokeless tobacco products, all topics that the FDA’s research has found to resonate with at-risk youth.

This summer the campaign will also collaborate with Minor League Baseball teams across the country to promote tobacco-free lifestyles by displaying campaign advertising and providing opportunities for fans to meet and interact with players who support the campaign’s public health messages.

According to the FDA, smokeless tobacco, which includes dip, chew, snus and other types of tobacco that dissolve when placed in the mouth, are culturally ingrained in many rural communities and, for many,  has become a rite of passage. Its use is more than twice as likely in rural areas compared to metropolitan and rural youth, particularly white teenage males, are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than other youth. In  fact, the FDA’s Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study found that 32 percent of rural, white teenage males (629,000 nationwide) are either experimenting with, or at-risk for, using smokeless tobacco.

In October 2015, the FDA also launched another campaign, the Fresh Empire campaign, targeting multicultural youth who identify with the hip-hop peer crowd, specifically African American, Hispanic, and Asian American/ Pacific Islander youth.