Published On: Thu, Aug 16th, 2018

The Many antics of Big Tobacco Industries

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By Olu’Seun Esan

It’s no longer a hidden fact that Tobacco is the only industry that produces things that fetch them huge profits and at the same time damage the health and ultimately kill their consumers; simply put ‘Tobacco companies kill their best customers’. For an example, Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins. These cigarette ingredients include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, as well as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT. It is important to add that Nicotine is highly addictive. DDT as another of the composition is ‘Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane’, it is a colourless, tasteless, and almost odourless crystalline chemical compound, originally developed as an insecticide, and ultimately becoming infamous for its environmental impacts. These are some of the compounds that are being inhaled by smokers and unfortunately, inadvertently by people in the neighbourhood of smokers and passers-by who inhale tobacco smoke exhaled by smokers or released by the burning sticks. For this reason the MPOWER, apolicy package for tobacco control ratified by the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have the first three components as Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies, Protect people from tobacco smoke and Offer help to quit tobacco use. This underscore the dangers imminent in tobacco smoke and tobacco use in General.
Another product, Shisha, which is unfortunately the recent trending addiction in vogue among the elitist urban population in Nigeria is neither harmless for consumption nor for public health. Tobacco is tobacco, no matter what. Shisha is often soaked in molasses or honey and mixed with fruit, but it still contains cancer-causing chemicals and nicotine. Findings revealed that Composition of tobacco smoke in shisha is variable and not well standardized. It is evident that smoke emerge from water pipe contain numerous toxicants known to cause cancer.
Levels of carbon monoxide, ‘carboxyhemoglobbin’ were higher among shisha smokers than cigarette smokers or non-smokers. Also, analysis of mainstream aerosol found that shisha smoke contains significant amount of nicotine, tar and heavy metals. In a standard heavy protocol of 100 puffs of 3 seconds, 2:25 mg of nicotine and 242 mg of nicotine free dry particulate were obtained. Along these, high level of arsenic, chromium and lead were found in shisha smoke. Hookah, shisha, narghile, goza, and hubble-bubble, to name a few are inventions of the tobacco industries to further advance their trade; for more variant of their products, for more customers and more sales. Some countries in Africa has placed outright ban on shisha and it is very commendable.
The Tobacco industries have consistently used colour branding to stimulate the interest of consumers. The use of colour yellow, red and gold colours by some brand of tobacco products are strategic; such that mere seeing an item branded with that particular shades of colours without even inscribing the name, people can easily decipher which brand of tobacco/cigarette is associated with that item.
A recent research in Nigeria by the Nigeria Tobacco Control Research Group identified branded kiosk as a deliberate marketing strategy by Tobacco companies to target youths who are known to be attracted to bright colours. It was concluded that colour has a strong influence on the way objects are recognized and identified.
The colour yellow adopted by a popular tobacco company is known to promote anxiety and attract impulsiveness in buyers. For example several researchers have established that, silver and gold colours can be used to convey status and prestige, particularly for “premium” brands according to Richard Pollay.
Other researchers maintained that Red packages and logos can convey excitement, strength, wealth, and power, while pastel colours are associated with freshness, innocence, and relaxation and are more common among brands that appeal to females. Clearly, the visual design of cigarette packaging conveys brand identity and information about the product to consumers and has a way of appealing to the unsuspecting public. Research has documented that visual design of products has influence on consumers’ perceptions and consumption behaviours; colour is particularly influential.
Tobacco companies were among the earliest companies to identify and implement effective, integrated marketing strategies; cigarettes and other tobacco products have long been among the most heavily marketed consumer products in the United States; and it follows similar trend everywhere in the world. The Tobacco industry’s over the years deployed subtle ways crafting of information.
A central feature of this strategy has been to use misleading brand descriptors. Words such as “light” and “mild” were ostensibly used in the past to denote flavour and taste, but “light” and “mild” brands were promoted in advertisements as “less harmful”. Another example is “slims” descriptors on packs promote beliefs about smoking and weight control—an important factor in smoking behaviour among young women.
It is subtly associated with increased brand appeal and reinforcing beliefs that smoking is associated with thinness. Since the ban on advertisement on mass media the Tobacco industries chose to lead anti-tobacco messages, thus keeping tobacco and its product consistently being discussed in public space. Such industry-sponsored programs that purport to decrease smoking among teens may be ineffective in doing so and may, in fact, enhance the tarnished image of the tobacco industries. Most times, Big Tobacco’s media campaign, actually glamorize a smoker’s lifestyle by making tobacco use appear “adult.” Some studies suggest these ads effectively encourage teens to smoke

Olu’Seun Esan, Writes from the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA)
oesan@ntcang.org

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