CDC Report: Marlboro, Newport and Camel Are Three Most Popular Cigarette Brands Among Youth Smokers

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 01, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Philip Morris’ Marlboro and R.J. Reynolds’ Newport and Camel continue to be the three most popular cigarette brands among youth smokers in the United States. In 2016, 78.7 percent of current high school smokers and 73.1 percent of current middle school smokers reported that they usually smoked these brands, according to a report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Among high school smokers, brand preferences were 48.8 percent for Marlboro, 16.6 percent for Newport and 13.3 percent for Camel. The proportion of high school smokers who smoked Marlboro increased significantly between 2012 and 2016, from 38.5 percent to 48.8 percent. Newport, the best-selling menthol cigarette, continues to be the most popular brand among African-American youth, reported as the preferred brand of 58.4 percent of African-American middle school smokers and 47.5 percent of African-American high school smokers.

This report is further evidence that Philip Morris and Reynolds American cannot be taken seriously when they claim to be reformed, responsible companies that don’t market to kids. Responsible companies wouldn’t have a corner on the youth cigarette market. In a landmark racketeering verdict, a federal judge in 2006 found that Philip Morris, Reynolds and other cigarette manufacturers have long marketed cigarettes to kids, despite their denials that they did so. This report shows that that cigarette marketing continues to attract kids, who use the most heavily marketed brands. In its most recent report on cigarette marketing, the Federal Trade Commission reported that tobacco companies spent $8.2 billion to market cigarettes in the U.S. in 2015 – nearly $1 million every hour.

To counter this barrage of tobacco marketing, elected officials at all levels must redouble efforts to implement proven strategies to reduce tobacco use. These include significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, hard-hitting media campaigns and laws raising the tobacco sale age to 21.

The FDA should also take several critical steps to accelerate progress in reducing smoking: implement its plan to limit nicotine in cigarettes to minimally addictive or non-addictive levels, and apply this limit to other combustible tobacco products; require graphic health warnings covering at least half of cigarette packs, as a 2009 law mandated; and prohibit the use of menthol in cigarettes and flavors in other tobacco products. Until the FDA acts to prohibit flavors in all tobacco products, states and localities should continue their growing efforts to prohibit and restrict the sale of these products.

While the U.S. has made great progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use is still the No. 1 cause of preventable death, killing more than 480,000 Americans and costing $170 billion in health care expenses each year. We can win the fight against tobacco, but only if elected officials take bold action to protect America’s kids from the tobacco industry.