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Dossier #3

Facts & Fictions

Myth: Young people readily identify with advertising that is aimed at them.

Reality: Tobacco advertising is everywhere in the world of the underaged. On average, they are subjected 68 times a day to tobacco-promoting stimuli1. A study2 which made use of eye-tracking technology confirms the media hype. While spending several minutes in a kiosk buying confectionery, a young person’s glance will fall an average of 22 times on advertising promoting tobacco products, most frequently unconsciously. But at the end of the expository experience, only nine per cent of respondents spontaneously reported having seen cigarettes.

On social networks, although such declaration is required under the corresponding regulations3, a large part of advertising content never makes mention of its sponsored status. As a result, promotions of tobacco products, some of which are extremely subtle and creative4 (e.g. in their product placement or their behavioural placement5) are hard to detect as such by their target audience. The advertising messages are often manipulative, and take advantage of the psychological challenges faced by adolescents, for whom they have a significance which will escape most adults. This was the case, for instance, with Philip Morris’s ‘Be Marlboro’ global campaign, which the Bavarian Administrative Court in Germany banned in 2013 after ruling that it was aimed at 14-year-olds.6

Various initiatives have been launched to develop young people’s critical abilities, to help them better cope with the tobacco industry’s sophisticated marketing strategies for which they are the prime target audience. It’s to this end, too, that Unisanté, Lausanne’s university centre of general medicine and public health, has created Tabagram7, a tablet-based game which is designed to sensitise young people to the tobacco industry’s well-established advertising methods.


2. Study conducted on behalf of CIPRET Vaud by the HEG Arc Institute of Management and IT Systems, 2017.

3. Article 2 of the Federal Unfair Competition Act.


5. Product placement showcases a product in various supporting audiovisual environments to promote brand recognition, while behavioural placement promotes the consumption or use of a type of product without associating this with a specific brand. The behavioural placement of tobacco products is growing strongly in films and series, particularly on Netflix. See

6. You’re The Target. New Global Campaign Found to Target Teens.


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