group of young people with arms around shoulders 
   Young Adults  

Ages 18- 24

2 men and 1 women with arms crossed 

During the vulnerable time between ages 18 and 19 when youth are transitioning from high school and moving away from their parents to go to college, into the military or out on their own, they are more likely to experiment with tobacco.


The Facts 1   

  • 9 out of 10 current smokers began before the age of 18
  • 99% of smokers began before the age of 26 and at least 1/3 of these smokers will die early from smoking.       
  • For every 1 person who dies due to smoking—more than 1,200 each day—at least 2 youth or young adults become regular smokers.       
  •  In Connecticut, Young adults (18-24) have a tobacco rate of 33.7%.  as compared to 19.7%, the rate of  tobacco use for all adults.2                                                                                      

If a person does not start using tobacco by the age 26, they almost certainly will never start.

Effects of Tobacco Use

There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco and tobacco smoke.   These chemicals can cause immediate damage to the body, even after only one puff.   

Young adults under age 30 who started smoking in their teens and early twenties can develop smoking-related health problems, such as:

  • Early cardiovascular disease.
  • Smaller lungs that don’t function normally.
  • Wheezing that can lead to a diagnosis of asthma.
  • DNA damage that can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body.
  doctor check males neck 

Lifelong smokers get sicker and die younger than nonsmokers, an average of 13 years sooner.

“Very few consumers are aware of the effects of nicotine, i.e., it’s addictive nature and that nicotine is a poison"

      – An executive at Brown & Williamson


The easiest way to quit is to never start.  If you do use tobacco, try to quit. 


For help with quitting call the CT Quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW, check out the “Thinking about Quitting” page or go to Smoke free Teen .

young men talking in coffee shop             

“Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers... if younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle” 

  - An executive at R. J. Reynolds

Tobacco Marketing to Young Adults


As young adults begin heading off to college or into the workforce, big tobacco is gearing up their marketing in order to find replacement smokers.

The tobacco companies know that the 18-24 year olds are the perfect audience for tobacco marketing. They are old enough to legally buy the products but young enough to still be highly influenced by ads that promote a modern and fun lifestyle.              young adults sitting on campus bench

“Young adult (18-24) smokers are crucial to long-term brand and company growth, young adult smokers are critical to RJR’s long-term performance and profitability. Therefore, RJR should make a substantial long-term commitment of manpower and money dedicated to younger adult smokers”  

 - an executive at R. J. Reynolds


2 women dancing and laughing 
[Camel advertising will create] the perception that Camel smokers are non-conformist, self-confident and project a cool attitude, which is admired by their peers. . . Aspiration to be perceived as a cool member of the in-group is one of the strongest influences affecting the behavior of younger adult smokers.”
- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. memo 


Coincidentally, the tobacco rate in the 18-24 year old age group is increasing while rates for other age groups are decreasing.  This group has the highest rate of tobacco use in Connecticut.


Targeting you where you live and play3

Bar promotions

Bar owners receive thousands of dollars from tobacco companies to hold promotions in their establishments.
Promotional items and free samples of tobacco products are given away at these events.   Tobacco companies often hire “Cigarette Fairies”, attractive young women, to distribute free products in bars and socialize with young adults.4
camel ad for bar promotion 

      party favors from Camel  
Party favors given away at a Camel bar promotion in New York.

Tobacco companies spend $30 million a year on bar promotions. 

At these events, tobacco companies collect contact information from the attendees and build a database to follow up with direct marketing activities such as mailings and e-mails.                                              


“A key factor in the success of Marlboro advertising has been its consistent targeting of 18-24 year old men…. By targeting communications at the club/disco/bar environment…. PM successfully builds up brand loyalty at an early stage.  - A Phillip Morris document

Attendance at a tobacco industry-sponsored event at a bar, nightclub, or campus party is associated with higher smoking rates among college students.


 “Alternative” papers aimed at 18-24 year olds 5

The free newspapers designed to intrigue young adults with edgy articles and information about events, bands and establishments often have advertising for tobacco products or events and bar promotions.  These newspapers are found in coffee shops, bars and other venues that young adults frequent.

 young man reading newspaper


Tobacco Company Websites

The Companies promote their products on their websites by using features such as videos, music downloads, games, coupons and contests that are appealing to young adults and youth.  

In addition, young adults use social networking channels including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to discuss these enticing websites with their peers.


Employment Opportunities

Phillip Morris poster for interships  Tobacco companies recruit employees on college campuses. Large tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris are often featured at college career and internship fairs.   Phillip Morris job fair 


With the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, tobacco companies can no longer sponsor events using a brand name, free samples of tobacco and brand name non-tobacco promotional items cannot be given away.  Tobacco companies still need replacement smokers and therefore young adults will continue to be targeted by the Industry in new and inventive ways. 


Additional resources

Living and Learning Tobacco Free:
Tobacco Free Campus Tool Kit


Smoke free Campus Initiatives

Tobacco Industry Marketing to Youth

 2012 US Surgeon General’s report, Preventing Tobnacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults  

(2) 2010 CT Adult Tobacco Survey, Connecticut Department of Public health

(3)Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium fact sheet,

(4) Clearway Minnesota,  ,

(5 ) Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium fact sheet,


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