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  • This is the second segment of a three-part series on the methods tobacco companies use to market cigarettes to women in Russia. Read Part I: Marketing Death to the Vulnerable

    Russian tobacco marketers are eager to get women smoking early and often, and have poured money into their efforts to make smoking seem trendy, glamorous and feminine. Tobacco companies center promotional campaigns around values important to Russian women, including the strong desire to be part of newly available “fashionable” lifestyles. Today, the tobacco industry uses all possible channels to advertise, placing ads in glossy magazines (a highly popular medium among young women) and (until a ban was enacted in July) throughout the metro, which has as many as 10 million riders daily.

    The tobacco companies haven’t stopped at traditional advertising, however—like many other industries, they are constantly exploring new marketing strategies. Tobacco companies have found a fertile, attractive marketing space in the cigarette package itself—the shortest, simplest route to the consumer. A smoker always carries a pack with her and sees it (on average) 15 times a day, and the industry does all it can to make the packaging eye-catching and trendy. The companies aim to make the pack (and the cigarettes) fashion accessories in and of themselves—an effective strategy that is being fought by plain packaging laws in countries like Australia.

    Despite the fact that cigarettes with lower tar and nicotine provide no health benefits or protections, tobacco companies in Russia are allowed to label cigarette packages “light” and “ultra light.” These misleading words create a false impression of “healthier” cigarettes, and are specially designed to appeal to Russian women, many of whom are constantly watching their weight. In Russia the “slim” and ”light” cigarettes industry is increasingly dominant, as is true in many countries where smoking among women is on the rise.

    The Russian tobacco industry also tries to market sweeter-smelling cigarettes—again, an attempt to court female smokers. Different aromas are used to alter the smell of cigarettes, giving the perception of more acceptably “feminine” scents and smells.

    In addition to these “feminizing” tactics, the Russian tobacco industry intentionally targets very young female smokers with hip, youthful packaging. Cigarette packages are often created in pink or otherwise bright colors, mimicking other products popular among teenagers and young woman. As I referenced in Part I, it can be incredibly difficult to pick out cigarette packages in a line-up!

    The first, third, and sixth images are cigarette packaging.

    This “feminizing” of tobacco products has had lethal effect—increasing numbers of Russian women smoke every day.

    In my last post of my three-part series, I’ll explore what’s being done to combat these marketing campaigns in Russia, and what future actions can be taken.

    Irina Morozova
    Communications Manager, Russia
    World Lung Foundation

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