online marketing psychology

December 31, 2009

How the battle against smoking is lost in Brazil (and the rest of the world)

We all know that smoking is stupid and expensive. Not just for the smoker but also for everyone that pays taxes. Between 1980 and 2006 tobacco related injuries in Brazil accounted for US$ 0.5 billion, that is 1.6 percent of the total hospitalization budget. In a country with an underdeveloped health care system, this impacts the care for the other patients: longer waiting lines, less material, less access for people that need it most.

smoking in brazil

After a peak in the 1980, the number of smokers decreased to 20% of males and 13% of females in metropolitan areas in 2006. But as the above numbers show, it still affects too many people. The government has imposed a ban on tobacco advertising , a ban on smoking in public places (including bars and restaurants) and featuring explicit warnings on packages. The price hasn't been used as a tool to prevent smoking. And compared to other Latin-American countries and others in the world the cigarette prices in Brazil are very low. But raising the prices of cigrattes probably just increases the amount of cigarettes sold on the black market (piracy, contraband, or tax evasion); which represent around 30% of cigarette consumption (130 billion units).


The Brand Strategy Insider featured an article by Martin Lindstrom on the anti-smoking battle. Authoring a book on the matter of neuromarketing, his research findings have been very interesting.

The study shows that people are not smoking less because there are big warnings, even the explicit pictures don't work. In a way similar to Pavlov's dog, smokers see these horrible pictures and a bit later they feel good because of their cigarette. The image has been over time associated with something good. By spending a lot of money on ant-smoking advertising, governments are actually helping big tobacco companies. One initiative towards a solution is to substantially change the package lay-out, warnings, pictures and colors. This so the link between the image or warning and the good feeling is not made.

picture by new_disaster