Tobacco Industry Hasn’t Come a Long Way, Baby

January 18, 2012

South Korea’s leading cigarette manufacturer, KT&G, has launched a new line of super-slim cigarettes and is directly targeting women around the globe in a marketing campaign that promotes the brand as smart and sophisticated.Kick Butts Day Logo

'Love Smart' declares a Jakarta billboard for Esse, which pictures a slim woman in a sleek blue dress. 

The newest brand, ESSE Sense, is marketed as a low-tar cigarette with a filter supposedly designed to block tar and nicotine for a 'refreshing taste.'  Sold in 40 countries, ESSE cigarettes continue the tobacco industry’s long history of making deceptive claims that 'light' and 'low tar' cigarettes are less harmful than others, when they are not.

The super-slim marketing also targets women with messages that portray smoking as attractive, empowering and stylish.  The tactics are reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s earlier marketing campaigns, such as the infamous Virginia Slims brand marketing, which lured a generation of women in the West to become smokers. Now the industry is targeting women in emerging markets, where smoking rates among women typically are lower than those among men but are showing marked increases in some countries.

ESSE cigarettes dominate the tobacco market in South Korea and are gaining popularity in countries including Russia, Ukraine, and Indonesia.  In 2010, KT&G sales of ESSE brands increased by 44.5% to 42.2 billion cigarettes.  

The company is expanding across the globe.  It has factories in Turkey, Russia and Iran turning out billions of cigarettes.  And it recently bought a controlling stake in an Indonesian tobacco company.

Advocates and governments around the world must act now to prevent a new generation of women and girls from seeing cigarettes as glamorous, when in fact they cause disease and death.

Read how the tobacco industry targets women around the world.