Trend Watch: Super-slims and pink – targeting women

Women are the sleeping giant of the global smoking market, but there are indications that the giant may be awakening. Recent launches feature products regarded as having specific female appeal though this is always controversial

In almost all markets male smoking prevalence exceeds female smoking prevalence, and this is particularly the case in developing markets. Were female smoking prevalence to match male smoking prevalence the global tobacco products market would be 25% larger.

This potential makes the female smoker a particular target. However, launches which are regarded as targeting specific groupings always draw particular criticism, other examples being ‘confectionary’ flavoured cigarettes which are regarded as appealing to the young and menthol cigarettes which are regarded as targeting the young, women and, in the US at least, African Americans.

Two recent launches which have ignited the female targeting issue involve super-slims and the colour pink. Silk Cut, a brand owned in the UK by Gallaher (parent company JTI), is launching a range of super-slim cigarettes in packaging which is regarded by some commentators as resembling a perfume box.

Meanwhile, in the US, the launch of new extensions by Virginia Slims use the colour pink. The accepted short-hand for a female targeted product is a slim cigarette with packaging in colour ‘coding’ ie pink or floral.

Super-slim

According to the anti-smoking lobby, ‘super-slim’ is not only a term associated with women rather than men but is also an attempt by the industry to establish, particularly for teenage girls, a link between cigarettes and weight loss.

Targeting women using cigarette product design and particular packaging has a tradition in the US but has been less noticeable elsewhere. Packaging, particularly in countries where no media advertising of cigarettes is allowed, is the primary means of establishing the product’s image.

‘Silk Cut’s super-slim purple cigarettes are thinner than conventional cigarettes and thus may be sold in a more compact pack. Gallaher has denied that the product is targeted at teenage girls, though not that it is targeting women.

Slimming link

Any product accused of targeting teenage girls, who have a reputation for being concerned about weight, is particularly controversial in the UK, not least because girls under the age of 15 are more likely to smoke than boys of the same age.

The linking of cigarettes with use as a slimming aid was practiced in the past: in the 1920s a famous Lucky Strike advertising slogan in the US advised ‘Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet’.

Global trend

Super-slims is a global trend and may be seen as the next stage on from ‘slims’. PM USA recently announced the introduction of ‘Purse Packs’ for select Virginia Slims brands some time in the first quarter of 2009. The Purse Pack , which will be available for Virginia Slims Super Slims Ultra Lights and Virginia Slims Super Slims Lights, is pink rectangular packaging with square ends. It holds 20 sticks that are smaller in diameter than a typical cigarette.

According to the company, PM USA currently accounts for some 58% of the ultra light segment in the US and regards the compact Purse Pack as a means of increasing share in the light segment. The brand will compete head to head with another launch in the super-slim category – Reynolds American’s Capri.

US line extensions

Over the past year PM USA has launched six line extensions, including Marlboro Smooth and Marlboro 72, around half the new launches of Reynolds American. According to the company, although Marlboro increased share by 0.8 share points to 41.8% of the cigarette market in the second quarter of 2008 (compared with the same quarter in 2007), Virginia Slims share contracted by 0.2 percentage points to 2%. The pink Purse Packs are a means of reversing the loss in share. The Purse Packs will be available for Virginia Slims Super Slims Ultra Lights and Virginia Slims Super Slims Lights.

Female smoking prevalence – is the giant awakening?

There is a huge variation in female smoking prevalence globally with both the highest and the lowest levels located in what may be called developing markets. Thus, in China, the world’s largest cigarettes market, female smoking prevalence is only 2.5% (of the population aged over 15) compared with 40.4% in Turkey and 31.1% in Ukraine.

But is female smoking prevalence growing? In 27 of the 52 largest countries the proportion of the female adult population who smoke increased between 2002 and 2007. In contrast in 36 of the world’s 52 largest countries male smoking prevalence declined between 2002 and 2007.

Female smoking prevalence in the world’s largest tobacco markets 2007
% of population aged 15+ who smoke Prevalence change in % points 2002-7
Turkey* 40.4 6.8
Ukraine* 31.1 17.3
Brazil 29.1 -0.2
Russia* 28.3 3.1
Japan* 18.1 2.3
Spain 18.1 -9.3
India* 17.2 1.4
Indonesia 17.2 -1.1
Italy 16.4 -1.2
Germany 16.2 -0.6
USA 15.4 -1.8
China 2.5 -0.7
Source: Euromonitor International
Note: * = growth in female smoking prevalence 2002-7

Sleeping giant

The female smoker remains the sleeping giant of the global cigarette market, however , in the sense that male smokers still dominate the global smoking market. That men are more frequently smokers than women has much to do with traditional attitudes. The question is, will female smoking prevalence increase in parallel with the trend towards greater female economic enfranchisement?

There is a huge variation in female smoking prevalence globally with both the highest and the lowest levels located in what may be called developing markets. Thus, in China, the world’s largest cigarettes market, female smoking prevalence is only 2.5% (of the population aged over 15) compared with 40.4% in Turkey and 31.1% in Ukraine.

Long way to go

But is female smoking prevalence really growing? In 27 of the 52 largest countries the proportion of the female adult population who smoke increased between 2002 and 2007. In contrast in 36 of the world’s 52 largest countries male smoking prevalence declined between 2002 and 2007.

However, there is a long way to go: currently there are only six countries out of the 52 largest markets where female smoking prevalence exceeds male smoking prevalence – Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Chile – all Western European countries with the exception of Chile, and on current trends this statistic seems unlikely to change in the short or medium term even with accelerated targeting of the female smoker with super-slims, purse packs and similar innovations.

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