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Big Tobacco Targets Military Because

Have you ever wondered why tobacco has been such a big part of military culture? One of the reasons is that the military has been a vital market for the tobacco industry. Before 1975, tobacco was included in basic field rations. Until more recently, tobacco was sold at commissaries and exchanges at discounted prices. In the past, the tobacco industry also provided support at military events through sponsorship for the right to promote the event and their product. They also paid to brand events with prizes, t-shirts, and other company-trademarked items.

Internal memos from the tobacco industry list various marketing tactics deployed to entice military members to use tobacco. Some of the strategies the industry identified were to capitalize on military young adult smokers (YAS) because of their age and more opportunities to reach males in the service.

In planning their targeted marketing, the tobacco industry examined military member’s interests, purchase patterns, brand preferences, and how competitors were targeting young adult smokers (YAS). Specifically, the memo states the classic military male young adult smoker “want[s] excitement/to avoid boredom… [The industry] can reach military [young adult smokers] with…GM Magazines [and] field marketing.”  The memo goes on to state that “Out-Of-Touch Competitors” are focused too much on “older carton buyers not [young adult smokers].”

Below are excerpts from the memo:



The tobacco industry has also tried to paint their organizations in a positive light. For instance, during Operation Desert Shield, big tobacco sent voice-recorded holiday cards from family members to deployed Soldiers. This may sound like an innocent and kind gesture, but their intent was to showcase the Marlboro to gain brand exposure among adult smokers.

View the Military Young Adult Smoker (YAS) Initiative memo in its entirety. You can also check out an overview of how tobacco companies have historically promoted their products to military personnel.

Impaired visual performance, dark adaptation and night vision, impaired vigilance and cognitive function, decreased stamina, and impaired physical endurance and performance capacity are just some of the things Marines may experience as result of tobacco use.  The Semper Fit Health Promotion Program is here to help you lead a healthier life by quitting tobacco. The Health Promotion team will guide you on your quit journey and can provide you with many resources along the way.

Thinking about quitting? Why not try it out for 24 hours? The Great American Smokeout is happening November 16. You can contact the Health Promotion Program for more information.

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