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Extreme Couponing: Big Tobacco style

Coupon via ClearWay

I wouldn’t call myself extreme, but I do tend to let couponing direct some of my grocery shopping. Whatever brand sends me a coupon in the mail is the brand that ends up in my shopping cart.

Everyone likes a good deal, right?

Well, it seems that Big Tobacco is in on the secret, because more and more women and young people of America are being targeted with tobacco coupons.  And according to new research published in Tobacco Controltobacco companies’ aggressive coupon marketing tactics may reduce the likelihood that current smokers will quit.

The report is the first of its kind to illustrate that cigarette coupons have a negative association on smoking cessation.

“We know that raising the price of cigarettes encourages smokers to quit. Coupons are a way to bring the price down, and keep people smoking,” said Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and lead author of the article. “Smokers who receive these coupons think the tobacco industry cares about their health and well-being, even though industry documents prove that they know their products are addictive and deadly.”

To arrive at his results, Choi analyzed data collected through the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (MATS) Cohort Study, funded by ClearWay Minnesota, which recruited 2,436 participants who were smokers and recent quitters in 2007, and surveyed them between 2008 and 2010.

The study found:

  • Nearly half of smokers reported receiving cigarette coupons.
  • 80% of those who received coupons redeemed them.
  • Women, younger smokers and heavier smokers are disproportionately targeted by coupons.
  • Smokers who use coupons are more likely to believe that tobacco companies care about their health, do their best to make cigarettes safe and tell the truth.
  • Smokers who redeem coupons are 84% less likely to quit smoking.

Though tobacco companies are restricted from using many forms of marketing and advertising, coupons – disseminated through direct mail marketing or other promotional channels – is a legal way to reach consumers.

Next time you grab the mail, check and see if you’re a part of Big Tobacco’s target market. Higher tobacco prices encourage smokers to quit, but will price cuts courtesy of a coupon be enough to bring these same smokers back to the drug?

Watch this video by ClearWay Minnesota to see an example of the coupon redemption process.

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