Effectiveness of Direct Mail on Cigarette Vending Industry

The Effectiveness of Direct Mail on the Cigarette Vending Industry in the United Kingdom

Irrespective of the mode and methods adopted for marketing, including direct mail, the cigarette vending industry continues to prosper not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the world. At the same time there is a continuous rise in the spread of a number of diseases directly related with smoking including chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancers in turn leading to increased death rates amongst the smoking populations.

One of the major causes of premature deaths in developing countries, the figures for United Kingdom alone show that approximately 120,000 individuals die every year from diseases directly related to smoking, which is an alarming 20 present of all deaths in a given year. A similar study on smoking also revealed that cancer alone accounts for nearly a third of all deaths from smoking, and another one sixth die from other causes related to smoking.

Figures for the younger generation entering the smoking populations of the United Kingdom showed that there was a gradual rise between the years 1988 and 1997,and a somewhat similar rise in the figures amongst adult smoking populations. Marketing departments of cigarette manufacturing companies around the world would least care that an individual smoking cigarette on a regular basis more than doubles the risk of dying before he or she reaches the age of 65.

If there is any consolation for these companies adopting various lucrative direct mail strategies for vending and marketing cigarettes, smoking by pregnant women have been found to result in severe repercussions for the foetus as well as new born baby. These include an increased risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight and potential for prenatal deaths. In similar context, parents who continue to smoke after pregnancy invite increased chances of ‘sudden death syndrome’ in their infants. The following dissertation will however limit its discussions and studies, and present its findings on the effectiveness of direct mail in the cigarette vending industry of the United Kingdom. (DOH, 1998)


One of the most widely accepted facts and one that has been proven beyond any doubt is that smoking poses a number of health risks. In addition smokers are more than likely to contract certain diseases in comparison to those who do not smoke at all. It is also a fact that smoking is largely accepted as an addictive habit, and with the passage of time, and advances in the study of and implications of smoking alto openly reveal that today it is not merely an addictive habit; on the contrary it is a collection of human behaviours which also includes smoking.

It must also be borne in mind that since it is an addiction, and for some indeed a very strong habit, it is wrong to assume that this habit cannot be given up. In fact, there have been numerous cases where individuals have totally given up smoking. It is precisely this line of approach that has made major cigarette manufacturers to print health warning instructions on all their respective packs of cigarettes. Furthermore, majority of the cigarette manufacturing companies around the world, including those of the United Kingdom comply with requisite regulations and legislations with respect of marketing, advertisement and sales of cigarettes.

There are also companies, which have their own pack labelling policies, which go beyond the requisite legislation of the respective host country. It is perhaps this lapse, if one may wish to call it, which has allowed majority of cigarette manufacturing companies to guise their marketing, promotion, advertising and selling policies into a philosophy which acknowledges the right of the adult populations to smoke, and consequently respect and protect that particular right. (Pierce et al,1998; Beemer and Siegel, 2000; Safer and Chaloupka, 1999; Anderson etal, 2002; Slade, 2001; Lewis and Littler, 1999)

In pursuance of the rights of the smokers, cigarette manufacturing companies also stand against any excessive price regulations and tax measures which are presumably aimed at reducing demand for cigarettes. An independent view of a number of tax and price measures levied by various countries including the United Kingdom reveal that the smoking populations are unduly punished for the pleasure of smoking, and governments largely fail to take into account the huge sums generated from revenues on the various taxes levied on cigarettes. These high rates of taxes levied on cigarettes then results in the illegal and often illicit trade of smuggling cigarettes in turn undermining the legitimate market for cigarette companies running and operating under legal channels of business.

A brief on the United Kingdom’s cigarette industry reveals that 1 in every 5 cigarettes is smuggled into the country, which adds to a huge20 present of the entire cigarette industry of United Kingdom.

In similar context is the call for a ban on the sale of duty free cigarettes, as the primary objective behind the promotion of duty free sale of cigarettes, or for that matter any other product is reduction in illicit trade of that particular item. A ban on the duty free sale of cigarettes would practically jeopardize the ‘regulated duty free retail’ of that product, and at the same time have a minimal effect on the sale of cigarettes. On the contrary a ban on the duty free sale of cigarettes would simply bring about a shift in the market of cigarettes from a duty free environment to one that is largely controlled by domestic market.

Another related aspect of the cigarette vending industry is that of various standards and policies which are aimed at raising awareness about the potential health risks associated with smoking. Trade zones such as those found in European Union for example are ample grounds for such standards and policies to be levied, which in turn allow for uniform results as well as derive common interests amongst the respective countries.

The non-smoking segment of the populations is yet another vital area of focus for cigarette manufacturing companies. As also a public health issue, the non-smokers are prone to, and thus demand protective measures from passive smoking. In this respect, there exist two schools of thought; one that disregards any findings and conclusions, which present cigarette smoke as a potential health hazard for non-smokers.

This group though acknowledges that cigarette smoke is indeed a source of annoyance as well as one of the causes of environmental pollution. Yet, they also call for an approach based on simple logic and common sense and co-operation. While the second school of thought, such as M/Gallaher, one of the major cigarette manufacturing and marketing companies in the UK, contend that government initiatives including the “Air Quality’ program are viable and productive programs to address vital public smoking issues.

Literature Reviews

There have a number of writings and case studies, which prove the effectiveness of direct mail on the cigarette vending industry,. These writings and studies have convincingly proven that direct mail has had positive affect and its influences have directly contributed to the rise in cigarette sales, in turn promoting the cigarette vending industry in general. Thus, it would not be wrong to state, as also proven from the following case studies, that the direct mail strategy in the cigarette vending industry has proven to affect smoking initiation as well as consumption.

A brief historical perspective also reveals that cigarette manufacturing companies the world over have significantly changed their focus from the traditional advertising tithe use of techniques which emphasize on developing as well as maintaining a relationship with individual customers. Direct mail through direct communication thus offers cigarette-vending industry source of generating sales including obtaining measurable response in related areas of marketing. (Pierce et al, 1998; Beemer and Siegel,2000; Safer and Chaloupka, 1999; Anderson et al, 2002; Slade, 2001;Lewis and Littler, 1999)

One of the most effective techniques, and perhaps one of the oldest as well, is that of utilizing mailing list of individuals maintained by major and minor cigarette vending companies alike. It is this list of individuals or customers, which serves as the potential for direct mail for cigarette vending industry. This list is also used for the distribution of coupons, sweepstakes offers, and brand-loyalty programme catalogues. Also included in the items distributed through direct mail are event announcements sponsored by the cigarette vending industry, and magazines published by major tobacco manufacturing companies. Practically all these items which are sent to individuals using the direct mail system contain activities and feature images which serve a two-fold purpose.

First, these promotional items are designed in such a manner to make emotional appeals to customers. Second, they serve to strengthen, rather reinforce the existing images of the various brands of cigarettes in the market. There are different modes of collecting such list of individuals, which includes events that are sponsored by the cigarette industry, sweepstake forms, signed coupons as well as brand-loyalty program orders. These listings more often than not include some form of a response mechanism, which invites recipients to fill out surveys for example, or mention their lifestyle preferences.

A statistic covering the US cigarette industry with particular reference to the role of direct mail reveals that there has been general rising trend in the use of direct mail in the United States. Brief on the 6 largest US cigarette manufacturers showed that they collectively spend a staggering amount of US 133.9 million dollars on direct mail in 2001. This was an increase of 131.8 present from the figures of 1998. One may note that these huge figures do not include sums spent on coupons or specialty items distributed through the mail system. (USFTC, 2002)

A survey carried out by a team of doctors at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, in the United States provided for results which convincingly proved that direct mail in the cigarette vending industry not only enhanced initiation, but effectively raised the chances for potential smokers. This survey comprised of some 3900adults, and primarily focused on the answer to 3 questions. (University of Medicine and Dentistry NJ, 2002; SUDAAN, 2001)

Questionnaire for the Survey

– Did any of the participant receive direct mail from a tobacco company within the last 6 months, including magazines, coupons, or catalogues.
– Did any of the participants use a coupon to buy cigarettes.
– Did any of the participants save any UPC codes, or tokens from any brand-loyalty
programmes of a tobacco manufacturer.

Results of the Survey

The results of the above questionnaire from the selected adult participants showed that the current range of smoking populations were4 to 5 times more likely to have received direct mail within the past 6months as compared to those who had never smoked before or were belonged to the former smoking community.

Second, the survey showed that smokers who had quit smoking in the last 12 months were 2 to 4 times more likely to receive direct mail as compared to those who had never smoked or those who belonged to the former smoking community.

The survey also revealed that the white populations as compared to other groups of populations topped the list of individuals receiving direct mail offers for cigarettes or related material in aid of marketing for a given brand of cigarette. The use of coupons was found to be the highest amongst the female smoking community, white adults as well as those falling within the age group of 25 and 64 years. Similarly, saving for programs such as brand-reward programs was also found to be highest amongst current population of smokers, white segment of the population as well as the those falling within the age bracket of 18 and 24 years.

Discussion on the Findings and Literature Review

The above findings significantly provided evidence that direct mail served to increase the consumption of cigarettes, and subsequently ‘impede’ cessation. The said survey also found that coupons delivered through the direct mail to individuals were originally designed to bring about a reduction in prices of cigarettes, as well as simultaneously offset the impact of rise in taxes and other control measures levied by respective authorities.

It was also found that programs offered through direct mail, such as brand-loyalty programs were intended to reward and encourage smokers through offer for additional purchases. The survey also revealed that direct mail marketing for cigarettes was originally designed to restrict switching of brands amongst customers. However, this strategy was only cover-up, and instead such direct mail offers allowed and in fact assisted smokers to continue smoking.

The above literature review and survey on the role of direct mail on the cigarette vending industry shows numerous legislations, public campaigns against smoking, proven addictive behaviours resulting in serious health repercussions and rising awareness levels against thrill effects of smoking all have somewhat forced cigarette manufacturing companies the world over to adopt direct mail strategies. These direct mail strategies not only provide smokers with appealing and inviting messages; they move a step further and offer rewards for smoking. Direct mail also offers an excellent mode of communicating directly with customers, which is all too easily disguised and more than hidden from the piercing scrutiny of the public health community. It is also an effective strategy against rising restrictions on the different and traditional modes of advertising. In this respect a direct mail marketing plan of the world renowned Philip Morris also notes that direct mail is indeed one of the influencing factors in the use and consumption of cigarettes. (Slade, 2001; Strategic Plan, 1995)

The above literature review and survey also reveals though direct mail is only one of the many marketing techniques adopted by cigarette vending industry, it is undoubtedly one which is witnessing continuous growth pattern, and one that is likely to grow in the future as well. The use of direct mail strategy is all the more worthy of concern as the cigarette vending industry is witnessed to continually change its marketing strategies in response to rising set of legislations and public opinion. It also a proven fact that practically all those involved in cigarette vending industry pursue a marketing strategy with a singular objective; one which aims to encourage initiation and consumption in smoking cigarettes.

To curb such efforts, and to bring about a control for restricting such marketing strategies including direct mail, there is an ever-demanding need to fully comprehend marketing tactics utilized by cigarette vending industry. Included in these efforts is removal of the names of the individuals from the list maintained by cigarette vending industry by the smokers themselves as they decide to quit smoking. The exposure of probable intent on the part of cigarette vending industry and possible effects of such direct mail strategies along with measures, which serve as potential triggers, such as the presence of ashtrays, should also be taken into account. (Fiore et al, 2000; King, 2001)

2nd Literature Review

In continuation with our dissertation on the effectiveness of direct mail on the cigarette vending industry, yet another research carried out by Lynn McFadden of the University of Strathclyde and published in the British Medical Journal issue of March 2001 is presented here. This research uncovers young people’s awareness about marketing strategies adopted by cigarette vending industry and their involvement and association with their smoking behaviours.

One of the most successful methods of direct mail marketing is one, which is carried out at the point of sale. It is the venue of point of sale where a number of cigarette vending industrialists tend to focus, as also evident in the research findings of the University of Strathclyde. The research comprised of some 629 young people, aged between the ages of 15 and 16, and all of who had opted to be a part of the research through a postal consent procedure.

The focus of the research, as also stated in the preceding lines waste examination of young people’s awareness of and involvement with cigarette marketing. The research also sought to determine the level of association, if any, amongst the group of young people between the level of awareness and the their smoking behaviours.

The overall findings of the above research comprising of young people revealed an extra-ordinary high level of awareness and equally high levels of involvement of young people in the marketing strategies of cigarette vending industry. Out of the 629 participants involved in the research, some 95 present of them were more than aware of the various advertising techniques utilized by the cigarette vending industry, as also aware of the various methods utilized in the point of sale marketing. Thus, both the aspects, those of awareness and involvement with cigarette vending industry were strongly found to be related with being a smoker. This was more than proven from the statistics derived in the said research.

For example out of the group of some 185 participants, 55 or a huge 30 present of the research participants admitted that they had received free gifts through coupons attached with the cigarette packs. A comparison with non-smoking community showed that only 11 present or 21 out of 199 participants had received fee gifts through coupons in the cigarette packs. Furthermore, it was also revealed in the same set of researches that aside from the awareness element about coupon schemes, participates were also equally aware about brand stretching and tobacco marketing, all of which were linked in some way or the other with their smoking habits. (DOH, 1992;Atiken et al, 1987; Led with, 1984; Charlton et al, 1997; Altman et al,1996; Aitken et al, 1991)

The above research thus concluded the young populations aged 15 and16 were not only fully aware on the various aspects of cigarette marketing including direct mail and marketing at the point of sales; they were also more than associated with the different cigarette vending industries in the marketing of cigarettes and both the awareness and involvement in the marketing were linked with their smoking status and habits. These findings also called for a more stringent set of statutory legislations, as compared to the otherwise voluntary regulations which are primarily designed to protect these teenagers, and which have become somewhat ineffective.

Other findings from the above carried out researches revealed and established the fact that the role of the mass media in advertising encouraged smoking amongst the younger populations. From a purely economics perspective, the same findings showed that expenditure on advertising pointed towards an increase in the prevalence, while a drop in the expenditures on advertising resulted in the subsequent drop in the prevalence of cigarette consumption, thereby proving a direct relationship between advertising and consumption of cigarettes.

These studies focusing on the younger population showed that teenagers smoking cigarettes are more likely to appreciate as also be aware of the tobacco and cigarette advertising related sponsorships, merchandising and vending. In line with such studies, other cohort studies on the same segment of teenage smoking populations resulted in similar results and furthermore predicted a tendency of future smoking behaviours amongst the researched populations. (DOH, 1992; Aitken et al,1987; Led with, 1984; Charlton et al, 1997; Altman et al, 1996; Aitken al, 1991)

A similar experiment involving some 2400 teenagers all aged a 15years, yet only differentiated by sex and postal addresses were taken for a research project from an area in the North of England. These teenagers were invited to participate in the research programme after due consent from their parents/guardians with the primary objective of deriving some 280 smokers from the total lot of participants. With response rate of more than 48 present, some 1062 responded to the call for invitation and studies carried out from the set of questionnaires mailed to each participant along with the consent form.

The results obtained from the 1062 participant teenagers (all aged15 years) showed that one in every 5 teenager was involved in smoking,214 teenagers or 20 present of the respondents were regular smokers,825 or a huge 78 present not regular smokers, while 23 respondents or 2percent of the total respondents declined to divulge their smoking status.

In continuation with the studies on the teenage smoking population, a random number of 373 respondents were gradually removed from the research list, as they were not regular smokers. The removal of these selected respondents further narrowed the research to those who were in the habit of, or were involved in smoking cigarettes. The number of respondents was now brought down from 1062, as also stated in the opening lines of these paragraphs, to 686 candidates only.

These 686 teenage candidates were then interviewed through a team of professional interviewers, who were in turn instructed to make at least4 clear attempts to gain positive research results. The interviewers were not given any prior information as the status of smoking habits of the interviewed candidates so as to derive a transparent set of findings. Here too, the permission of the parents/guardians was sought prior to the interview, as well as a 5-Pound gift voucher was also handed to each candidate.

In carrying out the above research 629 out of the total 686respondents were successfully interviewed. Those who were left out did so due to the passage of time, as by the time the research was concluded, the respondents had entered their 16th year, whereas the entire team of research candidates belonged to the 15 year old age bracket only. Each of the candidates was given two sets of questionnaires; one included a face to face interview with the teenage candidate, while the candidate in the presence of their guardians/parents filled out the second questionnaire.

One may note that there was no influence of the parents’ presence on the part of the respondent teenagers. Each of the questionnaires resulted in the awareness, as well as the involvement of the candidates with the different techniques used in the marketing by the cigarette vending industry including direct mail marketing. The findings of the research revealed the smoking habits/status of the teenage candidates, their future intentions for smoking, education levels, and smoking by their peers, siblings, and whether their parents smoked or not. (DOH, 1992;Atiken et al, 1987; Led with, 1984; Charlton et al, 1997; Altman et al,1996; Aitken et al, 1991)

A detailed analysis of the awareness element of the teenage group interviewed showed that in comparison to the non-smoking teenage population, those who smoked cigarettes were more than aware of practically all forms of marketing techniques including direct mail marketing. Information from the respondents showed that teenagers involved in smoking were also fully aware of the different types, but also knew about advertisements in magazines, newspapers, special price schemes, and offers for cigarettes. In addition, majority of the smoking teenage population had witnessed advertising on billboards, where more than fifty present of those interviewed had read about some form of cigarette marketing in the press. Also included were advertisements and marketing at point of sales, coupon schemes, and special price offers for cigarettes.

Other findings from the research of the 15 year old teenagers revealed that 20 present of the said teenage population had witnessed some form of brand stretching, which included clothing or other items with logos of famous brands of cigarettes, new pack designs, the different and attractive nature and size of the cigarettes, free gifts offered through cigarettes, competitions, and watching famous personalities smoking in films and on television. Though at a lower level, there was awareness on the various promotional mails from cigarette vending industry, distribution of free cigarettes, and to some extent from the network, or the Internet.

Thus, it was observed that young smokers were more than fully aware of practically all forms of cigarette marketing techniques including direct mail, in comparison to non-smokers or those who had tried to join the smoking populations. The awareness on the marketing aspect on the part of the teenage populations was more noticeable where free gifts, special price offers, promotional mail, and newer forms of cigarette packs and designs.

Marketing of Cigarettes and Role of Teenagers

As also stated in the above researched teenage smoking group, there was significant evidence to suggest the involvement and role of teenagers in the marketing of cigarettes including both direct mail and coupon schemes. It was also revealed there was little difference amongst male and female teenagers both of who participated somewhat equally in the marketing of cigarettes.

A statistical break-up of the smoking teenager population and the non-smoking teenagers showed that more than fifty present of the smoking populations amongst the teenagers had willingly participated in one or other form of marketing for cigarette companies. In comparison, some 25 present of non-smokers and those who had tried smoking had also participated in some form of marketing for cigarettes.

The above research on the teenage smoking population also showed that some 33 present of those interviewed had received free gifts through coupons schemes; another 25 present were in receipt of the special price offers for cigarettes, and a smaller 10 present of the teenage population had received free gifts through direct mail schemes at events organized by the cigarette vending company or received the same through promotional mail schemes.

The above findings thus conclusively show that there is a more than strong relationship between awareness of each cigarette marketing technique and current smoking status while variable linked with teenage smoking are held constant. In particular, the awareness of coupon schemes and brand stretching are one way or the other linked to the enhanced probability of the individual being a current smoker, as also with having friends who smoke, siblings, or either parent being smoker.

In this study, having friends as smokers was found to be a great influencing factor with the individual being a current smoker. The number of marketing techniques also varied and left a positive mark on the current smoking status and habit of the teenagers interviewed. Hereto, the presence of a close friend, either parent, or siblings was directly associated with an enhanced probability factor for a current smoker.

A break up of the different marketing techniques to which the teenage populations are exposed show that package design or price promotion account for a larger exposure, as compared for example brand stretching and shop advertising, the latter of which had little or no effect on the teenage segment of the smoking population. In spite of the above findings, a common factor to emerge was that the young populations was observed to receive some form of benefit, reward, or reassurance from either of the cigarette vending industries; hence a reinforcement of smoking habits, or promotion of smoking amongst the teenage populations.

These research more than confirms the need for a stronger set of legislation and laws. The research also calls for an equally tighter set of controls on the marketing techniques adopted by the cigarette vending industries across the United Kingdom. It also proves that the current voluntary form of regulations primarily designed to protect would be smokers, new smokers, and in particular teenage and younger populations are failing, and there is a greater and crucial need for revision of the same. The British Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill should be so designed to comprehensively ban some of the most famous forms of marketing such as coupon and brand stretching; the ban should move a step further and outlaw practically all forms and modes of marketing by the cigarette vending industry.

Laws, Regulations and Loopholes Exploited by the Cigarette Vending Industry by Marketing/Promotion of Cigarettes

This section of the dissertation will address some of the applicable laws and regulations presently levied in the United Kingdom as well as through the directives of the European Union for all member states respectively. It will also take into account the various loopholes and exploiting measures employed by the cigarette vending industry, as they bypass or practically ignore effective regulations to promote the sale of cigarettes, including various forms of direct mail, as also the subject of our above dissertation.

One of the first sets of regulations is the European Union Directive98/43/EC, which was duly accepted as a law as of 30th July 1998. Theseus Directive specifically called for minimal tobacco advertising inside the shops. Though the directive contains a summary and overview of the measures and timetable for the implementation of the directive, the salient feature of this directive calls for member government of the European Union including United Kingdom to ban all forms of commercial communication as well as sponsorships, both of which primarily aim actor influence the promotion of tobacco products.

An overview of the above said directive shows that though this covers vast area of advertising, and is largely utilized by the cigarette/tobacco vending industry to promote their respective products; the objective of the directive is to bring a halt to the transfer or changeover of promotion techniques used in the marketing of cigarettes. However, the same directive is all too easily exploited through loopholes and exemptions such as those enjoyed by the sellers of tobacco only, marketing at limited point of sales, imported publications, and use of vague language.

Brand Stretching

One of the areas which perhaps provide as one of the largest loopholes for the cigarette vending industry in their endeavours to market their brand of cigarettes is that of ‘brand stretching’. As also discussed in detail in the above present literature reviews and researches, brand stretching is the use of non-tobacco products and services to advertise tobacco and various cigarette brands. These include for example clothes with logos of famous cigarette brands, shoes, and other items, which though are one of the means for marketing; yet in reality they serve to attract the attention of current as well as would be smoker populations alike.

This directive is one step short of a total ban on all forms of advertising including such direct mail advertising as utilized by “Marlboro Classics”, yet it allows governments to exempt advertising where the branding is ‘visibly different from the brand of the cigarette and where advertising is done in ‘good faith’ without clarifying the actual meaning of the phrase ‘good faith’. Thus, we have a loophole duly utilized by the cigarette vending industry in the form of relaxation on such advertising, and use of such phrases as ‘good faith’.

3rd Literature Review – An Insight into Advertising As One of the Strongest Forms of Direct mail Marketing Strategy Used by the Cigarette Vending Industry

Studies carried out by British Government’s health S


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