The Network

for LGBT Tobacco Control

Tobacco Industry’s Newest Target: Hipsters

In a recent Media Network Web-cast with the Office of Smoking Health, Stacey Anderson and her colleagues presented on their research: Acceptable Rebellion’: Marketing Hipster Aesthetics to Sell Camel Cigarettes in the U.S.

As an urban resident myself, hipsters are a trademark of my area. Ever impressed with their sense of style, I’ll see hipsters hanging out on their stoops or in front of dive bars/cultural venues with their bicycles, tight pants, plaid and retro/alternative clothing. However, just as ubiquitous as the edgy haircuts and tattoe are the cigarettes in their hands. Which is not far from the truth as 56% of hipsters smoke.

So why are these numbers so high? According to the presentation/article, hipsters seek outlets for freedom and self-expression. They admire the kitsch, absurd, eccentric, and Camel has positioned itself to deliver what hipsters are attracted to.

Why has Camel targeted hipsters? For one, since mainstream advertising options have been restricted, tobacco industries have become acquainted with targeting underground, “alternative lifestyles” (ex. the LGBT community).

What makes hipsters easier targets is their often nihilistic outlook on life that influences them to disregard traditional health warnings against smoking.

The tobacco industry is also aware that “underground” culture influences the market, and while hipsters typically intend to be anti-establishment, they often set mainstream trends.

To overcome the fact that hipsters reject mainstream messages, tobacco marketers admittedly aim to get hipsters to think that they started the trend of smoking.

Just as the tobacco industry has targeted sub-cultural groups by essentially manipulating and inverting their own values against themselves, we need to be less straightforward with our intervention strategy. For instance, perhaps we should expose the manipulation of the tobacco industry’s attempt to infuse a corporate, mainstream product into their culture. Another idea that the presenter brought up would be to use advertising campaigns that hipsters may find attractive, like internet based relatable and The latter of which also hosts smokefree alternative concerts.

For more information on this, an abstract and summary of the article is available at the following link. ‘Acceptable Rebellion’: Marketing Hipster Aesthetics to Sell Camel Cigarettes in the U.S.,  (Tobacco Control, June 2010), Yogi Hendlin, Ph.D. candidate, UC Los Angeles and Stacey Anderson, Ph.D., UC San Francisco.

Blog post by Emilia Dunham

Network Program Associate



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August 27, 2010 Posted by | social media, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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June 25, 2010 Posted by | Action Alerts, Tobacco Policy, Uncategorized | , , | Enter your password to view comments.

It’s a superhero sized social media throwdown, can you help?

Mild mannered Gary Ploski

[UPDATE: It’s Wed morning 10 am EST and w00t!!! we just passed the 500 RT mark. Better start drawing that superhero calling  1-800-QUITNOW and slapping on his patch @supercoolagency!]

The topic: countering positive tobacco images in the media

The real superhero: Mild mannered actor/instructional technologist named Gary Ploski. aka @garyploski.

The bad guys: Nasty ad agency that names themselves Supercool Creative aka @supercoolagency. They create really cool viral videos to help shape opinions on the web. BUT — their supercoolness seems to be represented by the fact that their superman logo smokes a cig. Though word is, they might be tired of being bad guys.

The stage: Twitter. (thus all names preceded by the @ you see on twitter handles)

The start of our story: a few weeks ago mild mannered @garyploski tweeted to @supercoolagency “Your superhero … is smoking? That’s not really cool.” So, in response, their new social media guy (@chamberlainwill) just took it to the top and being all socially webilatory focused, they decided to make it a challenge. See the short story of it in Will’s own words here. Well then it bounced around a while, I never even heard about it until CDC‘s own media folk called me and said, hey, you seen this countermarketing campaign on Twitter, they need help. I’m like… no worries we’re on it! (where’s my saddle?)

The offending logo.

The throwdown: If 500 people tweeted “@supercoolagency #losethecig” they will do it. They’d redo all their web, letterhead, everything to drop the cig from the superman logo. (I think they should replace it with white earbuds) (and then I think they should use their coolpower to create a viral video against smoking, because otherwise they could be reborn as bugs.)

The count: As of late Wed, I count about 280 Twitter posts asking @supercoolagency to #losethecig. (and unfortunately a lot of posts just saying #losethecig, which I helped create but may not count since they don’t direct at @supercoolagency, sigh.)

The deadline: Friday @supercoolagency will post the total. Until then they taunt us on Twitter with pro-smoking posts. [update — it’s Friday aft and we might not be at 500 yet, but I don’t care, let’s keep going and we’ll get there! Gary has put up a great spreadsheet with all the cosigners to date here.]

Why this matters? This isn’t about a cigarette, it’s about professional arbiters of cool feeling free to invoke smoking or getting public backlash for doing so. And it’s about leveraging social media, and how many people care. They challenged us to get 500 people who cared about not linking tobacco and cool, and I say, no problem, watch us!

The strategy?

  • Not on Twitter? If not, sign up and tell @supercoolagency to #losethecig.
  • On Twitter? Post this “Hey @supercoolagency, superheros don’t smoke #losethecig. Please retweet!” and also, help us convince Lance Armstrong to ask for retweets from his million + followers, just send him this line: @lancearmstrong please help us fight tobacco via twitter, ask folk 2 RT “@supercoolagency-superheros don’t smoke, #losethecig!”

Other superheros doing lots to help:

So, two days left, I’ll be sure to update you on the throwdown as we hear the numbers!


Scout (aka @scoutout)
Network (aka @lgbttobacco) Director
p.s. Update – thanks Gary for posting a tally of signors, 287 as of this Thu eve!
p.p.s. Friday morning update — of all horrors, despite my years in tobacco control, today I hear my 12 yr old son has started to smoke. I guess all the info and love in the world wasn’t enough to arm him against the $41 million dollars a day in the U.S. the tobacco industry spends to make smoking seem ‘cool’. This boy even lost two grandparents to smoking-related cancer. Sigh. I just don’t even know what to say. One thing is… Let us never never underestimate the power of media to influence our children. (as of noon Fri we have 345 signors)

May 12, 2010 Posted by | social media | , , , , , , | 11 Comments


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