Anti-Smoking Messages Coming to C-Stores

By 
Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

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SILVER SPRING, Md. -- In an effort to target largely rural counties in 28 states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced a smoking-cessation education campaign this week aimed at encouraging adult cigarette smokers to quit. Using messages of support that underscore the health benefits of quitting, the agency will place ads in and around gasoline stations and convenience stores, where officials said smokers “face a multitude of triggers ... that typically feature cigarette advertisements.”

The Every Try Counts campaign targets smokers ages 25-54 who have attempted to quit smoking in the past year but were unsuccessful. The two-year effort launches in January 2018 in 35 largely rural U.S. markets. In addition to pumptopper, shelving and front-door signage in c-stores, the campaign will incorporate print, digital, radio and out-of-home ads, such as billboards.

“The … campaign encourages smokers to rethink their next pack of cigarettes at the most critical of places, the point of sale,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a Dec. 11 press conference. “Tobacco companies have long used advertisements at convenience stores and gas stations to promote their products, and we plan to use that same space to embolden smokers to quit instead.”

Here are more details about the campaign …

Where ads will go

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The FDA picked the 35 markets based on smoking-population numbers and prevalence, according to Mitch Zeller, director for the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, Silver Spring, Md. All the ads are paid, with the FDA working through a media-buying agency to determine what stores and media outlets to involve.

The markets targeted include the cities of Milwaukee and St. Louis, as well as:

  • Marshall and Mobile counties, Ala.
  • Crittenden and Independence counties, Ark.
  • Mohave County, Ariz.
  • Kings and Stanislaus counties, Calif.
  • Citrus and Hillsborough counties, Fla.
  • Coweta and Lowndes counties, Ga.
  • Black Hawk County, Iowa
  • Lake and Tazewell counties, Ill.
  • Madison County, Ind.
  • Sedgwick County, Kan.
  • Kenton County, Ky.
  • St. Bernard Parish, La.
  • Washington County, Md.
  • Wayne County, Miss.
  • Oswego and Ulster counties, N.Y.
  • Scioto and Trumbull counties, Ohio
  • Philadelphia County, Pa.
  • Bristol County, R.I. and Bristol County, Mass.
  • Cherokee County, S.C.
  • Carter and Wilson counties, Tenn.
  • Brazoria and Hays counties, Texas
  • Lynchburg County, Va.
  • Pierce County, Wash.

A spokesperson for the FDA did not have a list of specific c-stores or chains that will post the ads at press time. However, a representative said most of the ad deals, which are voluntary on the part of retailers, have already been completed.

Why c-stores?

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In addition to the ads' positive, supportive messaging, ad placement in locations such as convenience stores plays an important role in the effort’s success, Zeller said. FDA studies show that not only are c-stores where a majority of cigarette purchases take place, but in-store displays and other tobacco advertisements can also trigger unplanned cigarette purchases, making quitting more difficult. Placing anti-smoking ads in those same locations will help to disrupt the urge to purchase cigarettes and encourage a quit attempt instead, Zeller said.

“Tobacco advertising in retail environments can generate a strong urge to smoke, prompting a relapse among those attempting to quit,” Zeller said. “This campaign offers smokers motivational messages in those environments with the intention to build confidence and instill the belief within each smoker that they are ready to try quitting again.”

Cigarette-specific

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When asked if the ad campaign will feature noncombustible alternatives to smoking, such as smokeless-tobacco products or electronic cigarettes, Zeller said the ads will have a “laser focus on encouraging [people] to try another quit attempt.”

While the FDA promotes cessation methods that it has approved of and considers safe, he said, “there is a time and place for harm reduction.”

Ad funding

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User fees collected from the tobacco industry and not taxpayer dollars will fund the ad campaign, the FDA said. The Every Try Counts campaign will complement existing cessation messaging focused on health consequences from the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign.

The new campaign also complements the FDA’s tobacco- and nicotine-regulation strategy announced in July 2017. The approach places nicotine and the issue of addiction at the center of the agency’s tobacco regulation efforts. In particular, the plan focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products.

Click here to read CSP's December 2017 Tobacco Regulation Report.