Comparison of advertising strategies between the indoor tanning and tobacco industries

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Apr;62(4):685.e1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2009.02.045.


The indoor tanning industry is large and continues to grow, with 2007 domestic sales in excess of $5 billion. Advertising is central to shaping the consumer's perception of indoor tanning as well as driving industry demand. This article aims to identify key drivers of consumer appeal by comparing tanning advertising strategies to those used by tobacco marketers. Tobacco advertising was selected as a reference framework because it is both well documented and designed to promote a product with known health hazards. Two thousand advertisements from 4 large tobacco advertisement databases were analyzed for type of advertisement strategy used, and 4 advertising method categories were devised to incorporate the maximum number of advertisements reviewed. Subsequently, contemporary tanning advertisements were collected from industry magazines and salon websites and evaluated relative to the identified strategy profiles. Both industries have relied on similar advertising strategies, including mitigating health concerns, appealing to a sense of social acceptance, emphasizing psychotropic effects, and targeting specific population segments. This examination is a small observational study, which was conducted without rigorous statistical analysis, and which is limited both by the number of advertisements and by advertising strategies examined. Given the strong parallels between tobacco and tanning advertising methodologies, further consumer education and investigation into the public health risks of indoor tanning is needed.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / methods*
  • Humans
  • Sunbathing*
  • Tobacco Industry*