What Point of Sale Tobacco Marketing Means for Your Community
September 18, 2018

Have you ever found yourself in line at any store, scanning the area to see if there is that last minute grab item that decidedly is just what you were looking for, and then add it to your purchase pile on the cash register conveyer belt? That is not by accident, and it’s call “point of sale.” It is a tactic used by the experts, because it works.

Experts in this field can range from marketing experts, to product display experts, to sales experts. One of the most notorious types of these point of sale experts is undoubtably the tobacco sales and marketing experts. According to the Federal trade Commission Cigarette and Smokeless Reports, they spend about $8.7 billion every year to accomplish premium point of sale marketing, which breaks down to $1 million every hour. The tobacco companies know how to sell their products based on research, and they use the advantage of point of sale to do so. In fact, tobacco companies compete with other tobacco companies to ensure that their product receives the best display, and then the retailer is paid to display it prominently for, “maximum visual impact,” says Phillip Morris USA.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is marketing a product something you should care about? The short answer is because children are impacted most by these targeted sales. Tobacco companies lose hundreds of thousands of customers every year, averaging 480,000 deaths related to tobacco use, which is more than alcohol related deaths, car accidents, other drug use related deaths, and aids combined. If the industry doesn’t allure to young people early, the odds of them ever starting is significantly decrease by age 21; the Centers for Disease Control tell us that 90% of tobacco users first tried cigarettes by the age of 18.

This comes back to point of sale tactics because youth are more likely to start using tobacco the more frequently they observe tobacco at the point of sale. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says this occurs primarily at convenience stores, where 2 out of 3 youth are shopping every week, because the stores are usually located walking distance from school, home, or the bus stop. A research article titled, “A longitudinal study of exposure to retail cigarette advertising and smoking initiation,” explains that youth who visit convince stores 2 or more times a week have double the odds of picking up the habit.

  It’s not the retailers at fault for any of these statistics, it is the tobacco companies for not caring how these tactics target youth exposure and initiation. To add to the lure of tobacco use, the point of sale is leaning more and more towards the sale and marketing of electronic cigarettes, offering a variety of candy flavors and devices. As a community, it is possible to take steps that will limit youth exposure to the “power wall” of tobacco products including electronic cigarettes, but it does take a community, decision makers and retailers who are willing to make the change through an ordinance or policy. Asking retailers to limit the display of their products after school hours between 3-6pm, when youth are out of school, but their parents aren’t home yet, keeping tobacco products away from the counter displays that are near candy and ice cream, or asking those within a mile of schools to keep tobacco products under the counter are just few ways that to address the tobacco point of sale issue for further restrictions in, “maximum visual impact.”  

If you would like more information on the QuitDoc Foundation, or the Tobacco Prevention Program, please contact Marion County Tobacco Prevention Specialist Lauren Fischer at 352.598.8241 or Lfischer@QuitDoc.com.