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So you’re reading a bunch about how Big Tobacco tries to sell cigarettes to kids. And maybe you’re wondering why they would try to do that since kids can’t legally buy cigarettes. There are actually lots of laws that protect kids from direct marketing from the cigarette companies—like it’s illegal for cigarette companies to put ads in kids’ magazines. And the tobacco companies officially say they don’t want kids to smoke.

But sometimes you have to look at what people do, not just what they say. My little brother said it was an accident that he spilled his soda in my lap, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.


The tobacco companies say they don’t want kids to smoke, but something about their sales pitch says differently.

  • They target college kids ’cause they know that what college kids like high school kids will like too. (They can’t target high school students directly because laws protect them.)
  • They pour a ton of cash into advertising in magazines that adults and young people read, instead of choosing magazines that just adults read.
  • They increased how much cash they spend advertising tobacco products by 85% over just four years. They spend over $11 billion dollars a year telling people to smoke cigarettes!
    The other thing they do is make a ton of money selling cigarettes to kids—$1.8 billion! To put that in perspective, everything that Mary-Kate and Ashley sold in 2004—the movies, clothes, furniture, and perfume—totaled $1 billion dollars. So Big Tobacco makes almost double the money that Mary-Kate and Ashley made selling to kids.

Big Tobacco knows nearly all adult smokers started smoking before they turned 18. They also know it’s super-hard to quit smoking. So if they sell to kids, there’s a good chance the kids will keep buying cigarettes after they grow up.

So with all that, the tobacco companies’ talk about not wanting kids to buy cigarettes seems like they’re blowing smoke, doesn’t it?

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