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“Got A Light?”

My Best, This Week in OOH

4 439

My Best, This Week in OOH



By Nick Coston, OOH Media Buyer and Agent



“Got A Light?”


Let me start this week’s piece by saying I am not a cigarette smoker, never have been. I would be wasting your money and a perfectly good Pall Mall because I don’t inhale. So why bother. Instead, I smoke an occasional cigar. And no one who wants to live past 40 inhales those.


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But I’m having an issue these days. Cigarette and most tobacco billboards were taken down in the 1990s. They were all replaced for a period of time by anti-smoking billboard copy. And for the most part, cigarette and tobacco related products have not returned to traditional Out of Home. I understand, but I’m conflicted.

Here’s why:
Look around. Being in this industry I drive and look at billboards almost every day. Even if I’m on vacation.  Even if I’m going to a ball game. You name it, I’m always looking at billboards. 

While you don’t see any traditional tobacco products here’s what you do see: State Lottery’s, Casinos, Beer, Medical Marijuana, Porn Video & Book Stores, Strip Clubs, Bars/Nightclubs w/drink specials, Cognac’s like Remy Martin, in the African American neighborhoods, Online Gambling like Draft Kings, which I always get confused for the Burger King guy, Breast Enhancements, Tanning Salons, Vape Shops and finally Gun Shows.

Similar to cigarettes, everyone of these products could have a negative affect on your life, but yet they are everywhere and still no tobacco allowed.

But walk into any local Wawa, Royal Farms or 7/11 stores and right at the check out some great prices on cigarettes, buy the carton or buy the pack.  But they don’t sell guns, weed, or porn. Cigarettes are definitely still around, they just can’t advertise on billboards. But we all know they are there. And you get free matches too.

My question to our industry is, if the government relaxed the tobacco rules for out of home advertising, would you accept cigarette copy? I mean you take booze, pot, gun, gambling copy, what’s so inherently wrong about cigarettes? Drink too much and you can die from a bad liver. If your gun gets into the wrong hands it can kill someone or be used in a robbery.  Of course none of these products should be sold to minors but everybody knows where you can buy cigarettes so what’s the point? Liquor copy, gambling copy, and gun copy, none of them carry warnings, but open up this month’s Vanity Fair Magazine and there’s a colorful Lucky Strike full page ad, with the appropriate health warning. So why not be able to run tobacco on billboards and continue to carry warnings? Are we that stupid that we aren’t aware of the health risks cigarettes bring?

I may be more politically left then most of the peeps in our industry, in fact after the last five years, I know I am. But I’m a big believer in civil liberties and personal space. And also having a working brain.

So if you want to smoke a heater, have a shot of Malort, buy $10 scratch offs, sit at a slot machine after buying some choice weed, or get your boobs done, have at it, it’s your money and your choice. But chances are all of these products are on billboards. Except one.

And I believe that that should change.


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  1. Stephen Freitas says

    The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) is an accord reached in November 1998 between the state Attorneys General of 46 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and the four largest cigarette manufacturers in America concerning the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes. In addition to requiring the tobacco industry to pay the settling states billions of dollars annually forever, the MSA also imposed restrictions on the sale and marketing of cigarettes by participating cigarette manufacturers.

    Among its many provisions, the MSA:

    Forbids participating cigarette manufacturers from directly or indirectly targeting youth;
    Imposes significant prohibitions or restrictions on advertising, marketing and promotional programs or activities; and
    Bans or restricts cartoons, transit advertising, most forms of outdoor advertising, including billboards, product placement in media, branded merchandise, free product samples (except in adult-only facilities), and most sponsorships

  2. Thomas R Giesken says

    Hmmmmm. You want to compare Cigarette ads with cosmetic surgery done by a licensed Dr. and regulated by HHS(Health & Human Services). That’s a stretch…. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the things you listed in your piece are some i think this industry that i love should shy away from but if your memory has failed to recall all the cancerous health risks and deaths that tobacco has caused to this nation and others than you need to get on some Prevaegen. Tobacco is way more addictive than alcohol. I’ll just say that most of my Leases have restrictions with No Alocohol/Tobacco/Strip Joints because Landlord rights are much stronger than Advertising Company rights.
    We don’t want to go back to the 70’s when our industry was known for the 3 B’s: Booze, Boobs & Butts. ie. Mad Men. I am proud of the choices we’ve made to hold ourselves to a higher standard because kids lungs matter. I also have no idea why we can advertise marijuana(not medical marijuana) and not cigarettes. Both should be illegal.
    I’ll just say that it’s always the right thing to do the right thing. Not necessarily the profitable thing but could be in the end.
    I had boards in the Detroit area for 20 years and when I was at my worst financial times after ’09 Recession a strip joint called me and said “I will take everyone of your available units and pay you double.” True story. Man….. I had to think long and hard on that one. These boards were 2 hours from my home. None of my family or friends will even know. But I had made great friends there who I confessed my conservative values to. What would they think??
    Well, i turned it down and fought and scratched for 4 more until things got a little better each day. I divested these assets about a year and a half ago and I can sleep at night.
    I understand what you are saying about freedom but isn’t the government there to protect us from ourselves in the most basics of life. Why do I have to wear a seatbelt. Because it saves lifes. And that’s why we don’t allow tobacco on billboards. Because it is an incredible medium with unbelievable reach and power to change the minds of the unsuspecting public who many time don’t even know they are being changed by it!

  3. the 3 B’s: Booze, Boobs & Butts Thomas R Giesken, comments on Nick Coston post. Strong points Thomas! These two particularly stand out to me; it’s always the right thing to do the right thing. and we don’t allow tobacco on billboards. Because it is an incredible medium with unbelievable reach and power to change the minds of the unsuspecting public who many time don’t even know they are being changed by it!
    Many talk this talk. Few walk the walk. Good for you for ‘holding to your values’

  4. Great history recitation Stephen Freitas for the newbies in our Industry. Thank you.

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