Welcome to the New Age of Tobacco Advertising

Large tobacco mega-corporations are promoting their brands through the feeds of social media stars and hashtags
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Image courtesy of Wikrom Kitsamritchai/Shutterstock.com

Editor's note: This blog post represents the opinion of a Raleigh high school student and not that of Carolina Parent. We believe in offering our blogs as conduits for presenting opinions on a variety of topics that members of the Triangle community want to share with our readers. If you have questions or comments about this policy, please email our editor at bshugg@carolinaparent.com

In our modern world, bad news headlines are prevalent. From school lockdown drills to unpredictable weather events, the unsettling information from around the world twists our stomachs into knots of confusion. Despite all of this crazy news, everything seems fine. We develop our coping strategies, our own ways to reconcile the bad in our world and the people who commit it. Maybe, by recognizing it, the fear that it should provoke never comes to be. Maybe, seeing it in the news makes it approachable and easy to ignore.

What if I told you that there was something far more dangerous than bad news lurking on the phone that you're probably reading off of right now? Something unrecognizable. Something subconscious.

Children have malleable minds. I, personally, can say that whenever I saw a new toy flash across the commercials on the Disney Channel, I was all ears. Bright colors, happy faces, fun music —all of the textbook marketing techniques — convinced me that I needed to get the product. If I was lucky enough to convince my parents to buy it for me, and after the three to five business days that it took to arrive at my house, I would rip open the box ecstatically and try to absorb all of the commercial’s promising qualities. But, I always found myself in the same dilemma each time: Playing with it never seemed as intriguing as the television claimed it would be. It sounds a lot like addiction doesn’t it? Big Tobacco is the new form of Disney Channel’s toy commercials.

In 1970, Congress and President Richard Nixon passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, banning cigarette ads from premiering on television and radio. Direct marketing opportunities for tobacco corporations on social media have been prohibited. The Tobacco Industry has found ways to ignore policies and dodge government regulators, discretely promoting their brands through social media. This normalizes and glorifies tobacco use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first try cigarette smoking by age 18."

It doesn’t even seem like Big Tobacco is breaking regulations; billboards and commercials showcasing tobacco-products have disappeared. That’s because their modern marketing strategy is subconscious. Big Tobacco doesn’t need outlawed television and radio influence at all. If they have complicit social media stars and a gullible audience, they can drive their messages right into the minds of innocent kids, undisclosed. Welcome to the new age of tobacco advertising. 

Tobacco corporations will negate accusations of partaking in undisclosed advertising on social media by claiming that their open funding towards social media stars who happen to use tobacco products is not advertising at all. I have one question for Big Tobacco: If it isn't advertising, what is it? 

So, what do I want to see happen? Justice. If we turn a blind eye, mega-tobacco corporations will profit off of addiction and fatality of kids, causing the cigarette pandemic to worsen. I labored to build a website and write a petition, urging the Federal Trade Commission and major social media outlets to investigate and eradicate Big Tobacco’s influence on kids.

You can sign it here here. 

Above all, you’re never too young to make a change. Find what you are passionate about and fight for it. 


Owen Hannon is 14 years old and recently started ninth grade at Raleigh Charter High School. His interests are competitive swimming, reading (fhis avorite genre is classics) and cooking. He has an identical twin, William, who was born two minutes after him. Owen has a large interest in the heart and lungs, and wants to enter the medical field, specializing in both.


Categories: Health and Development, Kids + Media, Solutions, Teen Scene, Teens