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The ban creates new problems for tobacco company marketing. The companies are now being faced with new restrictions on where they are able to sell their product. The large cigarette displays behind the counter of any given pharmacy are also an important part of the promotional package for most cigarette companies. Furthermore, the ban of tobacco sales on college campuses illustrates a commitment towards limiting access to tobacco products for all young people, not just those who are underage.
The ban is the first step in limiting where tobacco products can be sold. What this means for tobacco companies is that their marketing efforts will now need to incorporate information about where to obtain the product. At present, tobacco companies generally focus their advertising efforts on brand-building, a function of the strong brand loyalty that cigarette brands engender. However, companies must now work to keep their distribution channels intact. They must also be able to communicate to their consumers about these channels, if access to their products are going to be further restricted.
Point of purchase marketing is also impacted. The ubiquitous displays behind the counters of many pharmacies and other tobacco retailers are an important part of the marketing mix for tobacco companies, since they provide a powerful visual stimulus. When Walgreen's left the empty tobacco stands in the wake of the Boston regulations, this can be viewed as a symbolic protest gesture. The marketing remains, even if the sales are banned. However, in time the tobacco companies will need to find new ways of reaching their audience without the exposure they get from their point-of-purchase advertising in pharmacies.
Lastly, the ban that Boston enacted on selling tobacco products on college campuses marks a move towards restricting access to tobacco products, even for of-age young consumers. This ban is the most discouraging for tobacco companies. They now find their capacity to market to impressionable young consumers further curtailed. Again, this ban will also result in a corresponding decrease in point-of-purchase signage as well. Marketers must now replace this access by ensuring that their products are available at locations immediately adjacent to campuses. They can also shift marketing to publications that are available on campus, which will help them maintain interest in the marketplace in the absence of availability.
The ban that Boston has put into place on selling tobacco in pharmacies is the next salvo in the war on tobacco. In the short-term, the tobacco companies will need to work on the distribution component of their marketing, in order to shore up distribution channels. In the long-term, tobacco companies will have more difficulty getting their products into the hands of consumers. They will need to develop strategies to not only improve their distribution channels but also to continue to generate exposure for their products despite the lack of point-of-purchase marketing.
Bans such as this result from the marketing practices in which the tobacco companies have traditionally engaged. This can be seen especially in the college campus aspect of the ban. Tobacco companies rely on two key strategies for their marketing - reaching young new consumers and making their products readily available. If tobacco companies are banned from selling on college campuses, they must find more creative means for reaching these customers. The alternative is to face a decline in sales as their existing customers grow old and/or die off, and there are fewer new customers to replace them. The ban poses the challenge to tobacco companies to find new sources of new customers, other than the usual impressionable youth.
Smith, Stephen. (2009) Cigarettes Gone from Pharmacy Shelves in Boston. Boston Globe. Retrieved February 15, 2009 at http://www.boston.com/news/health/blog/2009/02/cigarettes_gone.html
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Magee, Mike. (2008). Tobacco sales at Pharmacies? Health Commentary. Retrieved February 15, 2009 at http://healthcommentary.org/public/item/213922
Gebhart, Fred. (2008). Tobacco Sales Ban Hits San Francisco Retail Pharmacies the Hardest. Drug Topics. Retrieved February 15, 2009 at http://www.modernmedicine.com/modernmedicine/Pharmacy/Tobacco-sales-ban-hits-San-Francisco-retail-pharma/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/549113?contextCategoryId=47401[continue]
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