Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors “World No Tobacco Day” to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking tobacco. This year’s theme is about sending a message to the tobacco industry. The WHO is calling for a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, referred to as TAPS for short, with the goal of thwarting the tobacco industry’s efforts to recruit more smokers.
The tobacco industry uses TAPS to target the youth to encourage them to become smokers. Worldwide, 78 percent of students age 13-15 report having been exposed to these campaigns, as compared to only 31 percent of adults. And their focus on teens is proving effective, with one third of youth experimentation with tobacco being attributed to the influence of TAPS.
With some government restrictions on advertising through traditional mass media like TV, magazines, and billboards, they’ve shifted their campaign dollars to new methods of promotion. One of the tobaccos industry’s most effective forms of TAPS has been point-of-sale advertisements and promotion. With colorful and prominent posters and signs surrounding their products, these displays are designed to catch the eye of children. In fact, the WHO reports that kids between the ages of 11 and 15 who visit stores with these kinds of promotional displays at least two times a week are twice as likely to start smoking as kids who don’t visit these stores as often.
There are many other forms of TAPS that the tobacco industry uses to encourage smoking, including giving away free samples and coupons, brand extension (to circumvent advertising restrictions, e.g. Marlboro Classics clothing), product placement in movies, package design, event sponsorship, and even stealth methods, like promoting word-of-mouth recommendations among peer groups. It’s important to be aware of the TAPS messages we and our children are subjected to each day and the subconscious effect they can have on us. With over 6 million deaths each year from cigarettes – 600,000 of which were due to exposure to second hand smoke – it’s our duty to remain vigilant and work to bring these numbers down.
Teach your children about the devastating effects of smoking. And for help kicking the habit, read our Smoking Cessation Patient Guide with information on ways your doctor can help you quit.