Point of Purchase: What is it? How do tobacco companies utilize it?

   The purpose of point of purchase (POP) or point of sale (POS) displays is to make a tobacco product appear more appealing to customers, especially youth. The displays are an integral component of marketing of big tobacco companies. The youth are looking at or thinking about another product, say candy or toys, but with tobacco products placed in the same area and at eye level, the youth are often drawn to them without even knowing.

Submitted by Julie Russell,

Tobacco Prevention Specialist

   Other marketing practices, include signs on the interior and exterior of retail stores, functional items like counter mats and change cups, shelving displays, and coupons and other price discounts that reduce the price for the consumer. POP advertising also includes promotional payments to retailers by tobacco companies to have their products placed in specific store locations, making it more likely that consumers will see them, as mentioned above.

   The tobacco industry itself spends about $1 million dollars per hour on marketing in the US. Some of the ways they market to youth are: colorful packaging, sweet flavors, cheap prices, and product manipulations. Then there are the obvious advertisements in the media.

   Colorful packaging: Many of the smaller cigars come in bright, attractive packaging, similar to gum and candy. Thus giving the illusion they are fun and harmless.

   Sweet flavors: Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, Hookah, and cigar products are sold in flavors such as strawberry, watermelon, grape, peace, sour apples, fruit punch, banana, and even chocolate. The sweet flavors mask the harsh flavor of the tobacco, and again appears to make it “harmless & fun”.

   Cheap prices: Small cigars can be purchased individually and can be as cheap as 89 cents, cigarettes on the other hand must be sold in packs of 20, costing more than $6.00 in most cases.

   Product manipulations: In 2009 federal law banned candy and fruit flavored cigarettes, but did not apply to cigars. Some big tobacco companies have exploited this loophole to market sweet-flavored cigars that look just like cigarettes. And because tobacco products are taxed according to weight, one company went so far as to add weight by using sepiolite, a clay material used in kitty litter.

   The U.S. cigarette market was worth a total of $66 billion in 2013, and tobacco is still one of the most profitable industries in the world, despite the fact that smoking rates in the U.S. are declining. The industry continues to rake in profits while tobacco causes over five million deaths per year worldwide. That is why it is so vital for us to continue our work to combat this devastating epidemic.

   The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program and reACT work to empower youth to say no to big tobacco companies and their marketing tactics. For more information, visit reACT.mt.com. If you are a current tobacco user and are wanting to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit QUITNOWMONTANA.COM.