It's still sexy to smoke in Russia
Russia is one of the smokiest nations in the world, and tobacco companies are using every trick in the book to keep it that way.
Story by Jessica Golloher, The World. Use audio player above to listen to full report.
Elena Zlatoustovskaya sits in a popular Moscow restaurant. She looks cool, sleek and sexy holding an ultra-slim cigarette between her fingers.
At least that’s what marketing wizards would have you think. And Zlatoustovskaya should know. She’s a big wig at the Moscow office of public relations firm Edelman.
"Smoking is quite traditional thing in Russia," Zlatoustovskaya said. "A lot of ladies are smoking in Russia. This is a really big problem for Russia. A lot of people are accustomed to smoking really cheap cigarettes with low quality tobacco. They are just accustomed to smoke."
And accustomed, they are. A World Health Organization study puts Russia among the smokiest nations in the world with more smokers per capita than Indonesia or China.
And, according to Zlatoustovskaya, advertisers are using every weapon in their arsenal to get even more smokers. It’s not unusual to see scantily-clad young women standing on some of the city’s most popular streets, like Tverskaya, offering cigarettes to lure people in.
"Sampling is very popular," Zlatoustovskaya said. "So you're just walking around the street and a girl near the metro station comes to you and says we have new cigarettes. They will pay a lot of attention to that kind of action, that kind of promotion."
That type of street-level promotion seems to be doing the trick. In 2009, Russia was the largest market worldwide for slim/ultra slim cigarettes, which are generally targeted towards young women. These types of cigarettes often feature flowers on their packaging. Aromatic cigarettes are also the latest, greatest thing.
One of Philip Morris' brands, Virginia Slims Uno, in both black and white is meant to fit a woman's "mood." Ads for the cigarette feature hip, sophisticated model-type looking women on the go.
Phillip Morris officials say their slim cigarette sales jumped 91 percent from 2006 to 2009. Those numbers have embarrassed the Kremlin and Russia has pledged to cut the number of its smokers by up to 15 percent by 2050.
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