Marketing of Flavored Cigarettes Continued After Ban

In an effort to reduce the appeal of tobacco products and discourage young people from smoking, several governments have banned the sale of flavored cigarettes. In the United States, the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibits companies from selling cigarettes with artificial flavors, such as strawberry and grape, with the exception of menthol. Nonetheless, studies suggest online tobacco vendors frequently fail to comply with these prohibitions (see related study).

In this study, researchers analyzed Google search trends related to Djarum, a company controlling 97% of U.S. flavored cigarette sales, to determine whether the company had continued promoting and selling flavored cigarettes after the 2009 ban. The research was based on search trends from 2008-2014 related to Djarum cigarettes and cigars.

 

Key Findings

  • Searches related to Djarum cigarettes remained steady before and after the ban on flavored cigarettes, suggesting the ban had no apparent effect on consumer interest in these products.
  • An analysis of search results revealed that, of the top 50 pages related to Djarum cigarettes, 72% promoted and 34% sold flavored cigarettes four years after the 2009 ban.

Curtailing demand for and supply of flavored tobacco products is a complex proposition. Loopholes continue to allow vendors to market banned products online. Additional regulation and enforcement measures may be needed to more effectively reduce access to flavored tobacco and curb smoking among youth.

Citation: Allem J-P, Ayers JW, Althouse BM, Williams R. When a ban really is not a ban: internet loopholes and Djarum flavoured cigarettes in the USA. Tobacco Control 2016 Jul;25(4):489-490. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052309.

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