Background: Promotional offers on cigarettes (e.g., dollar-off, multipack discounts) composed the largest share of tobacco industry marketing expenditures, totaling $8.9 billion, or 72% of the total budget in 2002. Internal industry documents indicate that young adults, potential quitters, and other price-sensitive groups are the targets of these marketing tactics. How effective they are in actually reaching these groups in the general population of smokers has not yet been investigated.
Methods: Data were from 4618 current smokers responding to the large, random-digit-dialed population-based 2002 California Tobacco Survey. The characteristics were identified of smokers who reported that they used these offers "every time I see one."
Results: Thirty-five percent of smokers used promotional offers every time they saw one. Multivariate analyses identified young adults, women, African Americans, those with higher daily cigarette consumption, and those worried about cigarette costs as more likely to use promotional offers at every opportunity. Smokers most committed to quitting were no more likely to use promotional offers than those with no intention to quit. Cigarette brand was highly correlated with age and race/ethnicity, and therefore was not included in the multivariate analysis. Those who smoked menthol cigarettes and Camels, more often young adults and African Americans, were much more likely than those of other brands to use promotional offers.
Conclusions: With the exception of smokers intending to quit, cigarette promotional offers are effectively reaching most industry-targeted groups. Importantly, young adults, who have the greatest long-term customer potential, are responding.