Tobacco Advertising and Promotional Expenditures in Sports and Sporting Events — United States, 1992–2013

Israel T. Agaku, DMD; Satomi Odani, MPH; Stephanie Sturgis, MPH; Charles Harless, MPH; Rebecca Glover-Kudon, PhD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2016;65(32):821-825. 

In This Article


During 1992–2013, adjusted sports-related marketing expenditures decreased significantly for both cigarettes (from $136 million in 1992 to $0 during 2010–2013) and smokeless tobacco (from $34.8 million in 1992 to $2.1 million in 2013). After prohibition of tobacco-brand sponsorship in sports in March 2010 under FSPTCA, sports-related marketing expenditures declined for smokeless tobacco during 2010–2013, although 2013 expenditures ($2.1 million) represented an increase from 2012 expenditures ($1.9 million). Notably, during 2010–2013, smokeless tobacco companies spent a total of $16.3 million advertising and promoting smokeless tobacco in sports and sporting events. Moreover, although absolute sports-related marketing expenditures were higher for cigarettes than smokeless tobacco before 2009, the percentage of all marketing expenditures that were sports-related was higher for smokeless tobacco than cigarettes in each study year. Taken together, these findings suggest targeted marketing of smokeless tobacco products in sports and sporting events. Policies to reduce exposure of youths to sports-related advertising and promotion of smokeless tobacco might help reduce use of these products among youths.[3] The dramatic decline in total cigarette and smokeless tobacco sports-related expenditures after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and subsequent prohibition of tobacco-brand sponsorship under FSPTCA correlates with the decrease in adult and teen smoking in the United States during the past two decades.[1]

The World Health Organization recommends restrictions on direct and indirect forms of tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorships.*** Tobacco-brand sponsorship prohibited under the FSPTCA distinguishes tobacco brand name from the corporate name. The rule prohibits the use of brand name (alone or in conjunction with any other word), logo, symbol, motto, selling message, recognizable color or pattern of colors, or other identifying features used for any brand of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco for sponsorship activities in sports and entertainment events or other social or cultural events. However, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are permitted to conduct such sponsorships in their corporate name, if both the corporate name and the corporation were registered and in use in the United States before January 1, 1995, and the corporate name does not include any brand name or any of the other aforementioned brand characteristics.[6] Corporate-name tobacco sponsorship has the potential to maintain tobacco industry presence in sports, promote tobacco industry corporate image, and allow tobacco industry corporate names to be mentioned in media, even though cigarette and smokeless tobacco commercials are prohibited in broadcast media.

High prevalence of smokeless tobacco use has been reported among athletes at different levels, including among minor league baseball players (24.8%), major league baseball players (36.0%), and National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I male baseball players (49.6%), and among male high school athletes (17.4%).[7–9] To date, several U.S. cities, including Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; Boston, Massachusetts; and New York, New York, have passed legislation to prohibit smokeless tobacco use in public sports venues by players, coaches, referees, and fans.††† Smokeless tobacco use among professional athletes has the potential to serve as an unpaid advertisement for these products, even in an environment where tobacco-brand sponsorship is prohibited. Professional athletes serve as role models for youths who might perceive such behavior as safe, socially acceptable, or a means to enhance athletic performance.[8] However, smokeless tobacco use is not safe and can lead to nicotine addiction; oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer; and other oral conditions, including periodontal disease.§§§

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, sports-related marketing expenditures were not disaggregated by the different advertising and promotional categories (e.g., Internet, specialty item distribution, magazines, etc.); therefore, determining what proportion of sports-related marketing expenditures was spent on specific advertising and promotional categories, especially those that appeal to youths, was not possible. Second, the amount of tobacco industry expenditures on advertising and promotion in sports might not necessarily correlate with actual levels of individual exposure to pro-tobacco marketing activities in sports.

Tobacco advertising and promotion might increase tobacco use by encouraging youths to experiment with and initiate regular tobacco use,[10] deterring current tobacco users from quitting, prompting former tobacco users to relapse, and increasing intensity of tobacco use among current users by serving as external behavioral cues.[2] Restricting tobacco advertising and promotion in sports, coupled with other proven population-based measures (e.g., tobacco price increases, anti-tobacco mass media campaigns, tobacco-free policies inclusive of smokeless tobacco, and barrier-free cessation services), can help reduce tobacco use in the United States.[3]

***World Health Organization report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2013. Enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (