Tobacco Industry Watch

America's Most Wanted Tobacco Villains

The Usual Suspects, New Villains and Emerging Threats


Report posted March 18, 2013

The United States has made enormous progress in reducing youth smoking, with the smoking rate among high school students falling from a record high of 36.4 percent in 1997 to 18.1 percent in 2011. Nevertheless, tobacco use among youth – and among all Americans – remains a serious problem. Every day, nearly 1,000 U.S. kids become regular smokers – one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

A 2012 U.S. Surgeon General’s report – Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults – concluded that tobacco marketing causes kids to start and continue using tobacco products.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spend $8.5 billion a year – nearly $1 million each hour – to market their deadly and addictive products.

This report and an accompanying infographic highlight the biggest tobacco threats to kids today. These include:

  • The Usual Suspects: The tobacco industry aggressively targets kids with marketing for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Unfortunately, this marketing works. Among youth smokers, 85.8 percent prefer Marlboro, Camel and Newport, which are three of the most heavily marketed cigarette brands.

  • New Villains: Tobacco companies have introduced cheap, sweet and colorfully-packaged small cigars that entice kids. Many look just like cigarettes, and they come in candy and fruit flavors such as strawberry, vanilla, peach and apple.

  • Emerging Threats: Tobacco companies are also marketing novel smokeless tobacco products that look like breath mints, teabags and toothpicks – they’re tobacco in disguise. These products are addictive and easy for kids to hide.

Tobacco use is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing 443,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Ninety percent of adult smokers started by the age of 18, making prevention of youth tobacco use a key to reducing tobacco’s deadly toll.


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