BACKGROUND: Characterising flavours are an important marketing tool for the tobacco industry. Following the European Tobacco Products Directive, the sales of menthol cigarettes in all EU Member States, including the Czech Republic, were banned as of May 20, 2020. The aim of this study is to map and analyse the response of the tobacco industry to the menthol cigarette ban in its marketing campaigns and media communications in the Czech Republic.
METHODS: We conducted a non-systematic online review of marketing campaigns and a search of media content. The research sample used in the analysis of the marketing campaigns consisted of a campaign website (N = 1), product websites (N = 3), online articles (N = 2), social media posts (N = 2), an online video (N = 1), a press release (N = 1), and leaflets (N = 2). Media content analysis was performed on 248 media articles. We analysed media content using qualitative discourse analysis and marketing communication using qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: We identified marketing campaign forms used by the two dominant tobacco companies on the Czech market. We discovered product pages with an integrated campaign, a series of posts on social networks, and articles on the manufacturers’ websites, as well as leaflets at points of sale. The aim of the communication was to inform the recipients of the upcoming change in the legislation and especially to promote menthol flavourings in alternative tobacco and nicotine products (HTP, ENDS, nicotine pouches). In the media content analysis, we categorised three frameworks which constitute the narrative structure of the media communication: (1) loss and gain, (2) repressing freedom, and (3) menthol flavor as a danger.
CONCLUSION: This study brings evidence that the tobacco industry used the menthol ban as a communication opportunity, and therefore conducted a sophisticated communication campaign.