Tobacco Industry Branding Strategies and Its Influence on Young Adults

Document Type : Progress of Tobacco Control in South-East Asia Region (Special Issue)


Department of Public Health, American International University, Bangladesh (AIUB), Bangladesh.


Every year, tobacco industries are spending millions of dollars targeting youths and non-smokers with tactful advertisements and promotion, which has impact on early initiation, increasing overall smoking rate and further upsurge the disease and early death. The study aimed to explore the tobacco industry’s branding strategies that influences youth to early initiation of tobacco in Bangladesh. This study was a cross-sectional design with mixed method approach and implemented during March - December 2019. Survey was conducted using semi-structured questionnaire through face-to-face interview among 208 students in different educational institutions of the selected areas of Dhaka city as well as twenty-five (25) KIIs were conducted with different experts personnel. Descriptive and inferential analysis were performed for quantitative data. Thematic analysis was done for qualitative data. Among student respondents, 71.0% were smokers and their average age of initiation was 13.8 years. Study revealed that 21% students attended or exposed to different types of tobacco industry’s (TI) promotional programs including one-to-one/group campaign (61%), corporate programs (23%), seminar (21%), career counseling (21%) and sports event (2%). Among them, 70.0% students received free promotional items, such as T-shirt, lighter, cap, wrist belt, free cigarette, etc. at these programs and 65% students were interested in the motivational speech given by the TI representatives. Three-fourths (75%) were familiar with misleading branding terms such as light, tar, full flavor, filter and menthol. The initiation age of the smoking was associated with observing the arrangement of the smoking product in the retail shop (p <0.05), attracted to cigarette stick and packet color (p<0.05) and attracted to smell/flavor (p<0.05) and attracted to role model/celebrity’s smoking (p<0.05). Among retailers, 59.3% received TI assistance including showcase decoration with brand color, receiving model box and mounting board. Besides, 59.3% retailers mentioned promoting new brands to the non-user including students through promotional campaign, convince/persuasion, giving free samples, etc. TI is undertaking aggressive marketing and promoting brands targeting the youth around educational institutions that are ultimately contributing to early smoking initiation. A Strong monitoring system should be in place to stop direct and indirect branding and promotional activities. 


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