Companies Exploiting Unregulated Internet to Sell Alcohol, Tobacco Products, Study Finds

Analysis of the emerging market practices of alcohol and tobacco companies using electronic communications

Investigators at the Center for Media Education (Washington) surveyed 300 tobacco and alcohol websites, and analyzed the commercial content of more than 100 sites to determine how these companies use online technologies to promote their products.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).

Key Findings

  • Alcohol and tobacco companies use the Internet to advertise and promote their products through a variety of marketing techniques that capitalize on the medium's strong and unique appeal to young people.
  • Hundreds of websites offer wine, beer, distilled spirits and tobacco products for sale by wholesalers and retailers to buyers who charge purchases to a credit card.
  • Research into current and emerging legal and regulatory measures to prevent marketing of tobacco and alcohol to children showed that existing laws, such as the Cigarette Act of 1971, could be interpreted to cover Internet sales and marketing.