Cigarette stick as valuable communicative real estate: a content analysis of cigarettes from 14 low-income and middle-income countries

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Abstract

Background

The current cigarette market is heavily focused on low-income and middle-income countries. Branding of tobacco products is key to establishing and maintaining a customer base. Greater restrictions on marketing and advertising of tobacco products create an incentive for companies to focus more on branding via the product itself. We consider how tobacco sticks are used for communicative purposes in 14 low-income and middle-income countries with extensive tobacco markets.

Methods

In 2013, we collected and coded 3232 cigarette and kretek packs that were purchased from vendors in diverse neighbourhoods in 44 cities across the 14 low-income and middle-income countries with the greatest number of smokers. A single stick from each pack was assessed for branding, decorative and communicative elements using a common coding framework. Stick communication variables included brand name, brand image/logo, brand descriptor, colour and design carried through from pack, ‘capsule cigarette’ symbol, and embellishment of filter end.

Results

Communication and branding on the stick is essentially ubiquitous (99.75%); 97% of sticks include explicit branding (brand name or logo present). Colour is commonly carried through from the pack (95%), and some sticks (13%) include decorative elements matching the pack. Decorative elements can be found anywhere on the stick, including the filter tip (8%), and ‘convertible’ cigarettes include a symbol to show where to push.

Conclusions

Cigarette sticks are clearly valuable ‘real estate’ that tobacco companies are using for communicative purposes. Across all countries and brands, the stick communicates branding via text, colour and imagery.

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