As part of the 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement, the nations largest cigarette companies promised not to "take any action directly or indirectly to target youth in advertising, promotion, or marketing of tobacco products." They claim to have no interest in the youth market and are working diligently to curb teen smoking. But, no matter what they say, the youth segment of the market is vital to their continuing success and they will continue to find new ways to target this market indirectly.
Studies show that almost 90 percent of smokers first tried cigarettes before age 18. This is also the time that brand loyalties are formed. A document that was made public during the tobacco trials sums up the reliance tobacco companies have on youth smokers: "Today's teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while in their teens it is during the teenage years that the initial brand choice is made.".
The companies now claim to no longer target an underage market. Instead they have moved their focus to college aged youth. Tobacco is no longer advertised on television or billboards. Yet, the advertising budget during 1999 (the year following the multi-state settlement) rose by 22 percent to $8.4 billion dollars. A large portion of this increase was in marketing categories effective at reaching teenagers.
High visibility store displays and promotional giveaways are proven very effective means of targeting the youth market. Efforts at targeting the college-aged market appeal to younger audiences as well. .
Magazine advertising represents the largest and most effective campaign. Though tobacco companies agreed not to advertise in publications that target people under 18, many magazines that are targeted to an older audience still have teen readership of more than 15 percent. The three most popular cigarette brands with youth ran ads that reached more than 80 percent of U.