Discount brands: Report prepared for NHS Health Scotland
Publication Source

The Centre for Tobacco Control Research, University of Strathclyde

Economy status
High-income economies

The price of cigarettes is one of the most important factors affecting tobacco consumption (World Bank 1999) as high cigarette prices can prevent people from taking up smoking and encourage those who smoke to quit (ASH 2002). The World Bank (1999)calculated that a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes can reduce demand by around 4% in high income countries. The UK has the highest tobacco taxes in the European Union with around 80% of cigarette prices comprising tax (ASH 2002). Due to this high cost of cigarettes many smokers are switching to lower priced discount brands.

In 1999 the House of Commons Health Select Committee obtained access to the internal documents of five main advertising agencies of the UK tobacco industry. The five agencies were: CDP, M&C Saatchi, Mustoe Merriman Herring and Levy, TBWA GCT Simon Palmer Limited and Lowe Howard-Spink. A range of documents were obtained including: contact reports between client and agency, client briefs, creative briefs, media briefs, media
schedules, advertising budgets and market research reports (their own and other contracted agencies). These documents were scanned during the summer of 2002 at the Centre for Tobacco Control Research to develop
a searchable electronic archive ( site was searched using the keyword ‘economy’ yielding 55 results. All of these documents were briefly reviewed online to determine their significance and those relevant were printed out for review.

The documents highlight that:

1. The price of cigarettes is becoming a problem for many smokers and the opportunity exists to switch to lower priced brands.

2. A considerable amount of research is conducted to examine who smokes discount brands and why.

3.Discount brands are becoming more popular among lower socio-economic groups and advertising is designed to reflect this.

4. Advertising focuses on below-the-line promotions and is designed to reassure smokers of the quality and acceptability of discount brands.

5. Advertising before the Budget is a frequently adopted strategy to counter tax increases.

6. Discount brands attract the patronage of young smokers.