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Big tobacco targets small customers
October 29, 2017, 1:24 pm

Tobacco companies have evolved a new strategy of deliberately targeting children and the younger generation by situating their products near primary and secondary schools in many African countries, shows a new report by the Nigerian Tobacco Control Research Group (NTCRG).

Research and surveys conducted in Nigeria in preparing the report found that tobacco points of sales (POS) were located within 100 meters of schools across five surveyed cities in the country.

The study reveals a number of marketing strategies that tobacco companies use to stimulate interest among children and youths in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco use is a major preventable cause of death worldwide and is projected to be responsible for eight million deaths annually by 2030. A recent WHO report in 2011 titled ‘Global Tobacco Epidemic’ showed that four out of every five adult smokers started smoking before age of 18, and that such young age of initiation to tobacco use is a strong predictor of prolonged use.

A survey conducted in Nigeria recently revealed that only 12 percent of students aged 13 to 15 had never smoked cigarettes before; meanwhile over 15 percent said they regularly used cigarettes or other tobacco products.

In the latest study by the NTCRG, of the 221 schools surveyed across five cities, 193 of them (87%) had a tobacco POS within 100 meters of the school premises.

Of these schools, 127 (66%) had POS within visible distance of the immediate school environment.

Of the stores and kiosk POS within 100 meters of the schools, the vast majority 160 (83%) had tobacco products brazenly on display on the counter, while 150 (78%) had the products behind the counter, the report stated.

Cigarettes were displayed next to confectioneries commonly purchased by children such as sweets and biscuits. In addition, cigarettes were sold in single sticks in 157 (81%) POS outlets.

Article 16 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control prohibits the sale of tobacco products in any manner by which they are directly accessible, such as store shelves. It also prohibits the sale of cigarettes individually or in small packets which increase its affordability to minors.

The NTCRG report also revealed that there were branded kiosks and push-carts from major tobacco companies within a 100-metre radius of some of the school areas visited during the survey.

"The purpose of this was to increase the salience of the visually appealing tobacco products to children. Allocation of colorfully branded tobacco kiosk is not a chance event as there must have been guidelines for such allocation by the sponsoring company. The British American Tobacco (BAT), which was implicated in this instance, refused to reply to the survey findings.

The older generation who smoked are dying, many are already dead and many more will die in the coming years, so tobacco companies need to replenish their stock of smokers and accordingly they are going after children, said a researchers associated with the survey.





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