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Tobacco companies are still determined to get children addicted

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 07 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1439
  1. Gerard Hastings, professor, Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK, and the Open University
  1. gerard.hastings{at}

Companies have to keep recruiting new smokers to replace the millions who die each year after using their products. Gerard Hastings reflects on a new film that investigated marketing practices in the developing world that are now illegal elsewhere

The French journalist Paul Moreira’s new documentary, Big Tobacco, Young Targets, is a timely reminder of three truths about smoking: only the young start1; it kills one in two of those who don’t escape the resulting addiction2; and the tobacco industry exploits these vulnerabilities with icy determination. The resulting carnage beggars belief: the World Health Organization estimates that the death toll will reach eight million a year by 2030.3 This film exposes the cynical marketing used to pull young and vulnerable people into tobacco’s deadly trap.

The tricks we in the developed world thought had been legislated away—celebrity endorsement, sport and music sponsorship, product placement, free samples, juvenile flavourings, novelty, and glitz—are, Moreira shows, still being enthusiastically used in developing countries. Thus in Indonesia, sponsored and heavily …

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