Russia: Cigarettes Branded for Young Women Spark Controversy

A recent advertising campaign and carton redesign by one of Russia’s largest tobacco manufacturers has riled Russan bloggers and sparked a debate on responsible marketing and advertising.

Donsky Tabak, one of Russia’s main tobacco producers, has redesigned the cartons of its two “female” slim cigarettes and engineered a sleeker, younger ad campaign:

Redesign of "Sweet Dreams" cigarettes, Illustration from

Redesign of "Sweet Dreams" cigarettes, Illustration from

Tobacco aimed at teens?

The press release found on the corporate website [ru] for the “new” Sweet Dreams cigarettes reads:

Маркетинговая и дизайнерская концепция марки заключены в идее путешествий, о которых мечтают все молодые девушки. SWEET DREAMS – это сладкие мечты о прекрасных городах, где можно отдыхать, развлекаться и совершать покупки.

The central marketing and design concept is the idea of travel, about which all young girls dream. SWEET DREAMS – are sweet dreams about beautiful cities, where you can relax, have fun, and go shopping.

In an article published about the cigarette ads, Adme [ru], a Russian website that analyzes and critiques ad campaigns, wondered [ru]:

Кто из маленьких глупеньких девочек не мечтает о жизни, изображенной на пачках этих сигарет? Шмотки, тачки, путешествия. Почувствовать себя хотя бы микроскопической частью этого мира можно незадорого — нужно всего лишь достать из сумки яркую пачку всего за 20 рублей и изящно расположить ее рядом с собой. Сигареты эти к тому же ароматизированы, а фильтр у них сладкий.

What young, foolish girl doesn’t dream about the life portrayed on these cigarette packs? Shopping, cars, trips. To feel oneself even a microscopic part of this world isn’t even expensive – all you have to do is take a bright, 20-ruble (0.7 US dollar) pack from your bag and gracefuly place it near you. And what’s more, the cigarettes are flavored and their filter is sweet.

Following Adme's article, Alexey Navalny, an increasingly popular Russian blogger, posted an article [ru] that showcased the new ads and the before and after artwork on the cigarette packs themselves. Navalny and commenters lambasted the head of Donsky Tabak, Ivan Saviddi, a businessman-turned-deputy for Russia's leading political party United Russia, for marketing cigarettes to teenagers and women.

At the same time, Russian news site Vesti reports [ru] that the Ministry of Health is in the process of drafting the “strictest anti-tobacco law to date,” threatening to prohibit smoking in “trains, airports, and jet liners” and increase the tax on cigarettes, upping the price up to 200 rubles ($6.90) per pack.

Navalny’s post triggered a wave of reposts and comments, both condemning the ad campaign, as well as questioning whether the redesign actually broke any laws.

One commenter posted Article 16 of the former edition of the law “On Advertisement” [ru] (which was later edited), which concerns how certain products, namely alcohol and tobacco, are permitted to be advertised:

обращаться непосредственно к несовершеннолетним, а также использовать образы физических лиц в возрасте до 35 лет, высказывания или участие лиц, пользующихся популярностью у несовершеннолетних и лиц в возрасте до 21 года

[It was against the law] to market directly to minors, and also to use images of faces under 35 years of age, or the statements or participation of persons who are popular with minors and those under 21.

While ddkf asserted [ru] that it was not only the ads, but the packaging which is geared towards teens and young girls.

Так что если даже донской табак не будет крутить рекламу об этих сигаретах, все равно их яркая привлекательная молодежная упаковка сделает свое губительное дело, и никакой закон это не предотвратит!

Even if Donskoy Tabak didn’t twist the ads about these cigarettes, their bright, attractive and youthful packaging would still make a deep impression, and there’s no law that prevents that.

On a similar article on, fotofermer [ru] countered:

Чего все взъелись? Нормальный коммерческий подход. Хорошее графическое оформление и грамотная маркетинговая схема.

What’s the big deal? It’s a normal, commercial approach. A good graphic appearance and an intelligent marketing campaign.

Another commenter agreed [ru] that there was no problem with the ads and speculated that politics was behind bloggers’ outcry:

на рекламе вроде взрослая девушка и на пачках написано, что продажа до 18+ запрещена, на пойму из-за чего истерика, из-за того, что владелец Донского табака единорос?

In the ad the girl seems to be an adult and on the packs its written that it’s forbidden to sell to under 18, I don’t understand where such hysterics are coming from, from the fact that the head of Donskoy Tabak is a member of United Russia?

On SweetDreams’ Smoking website and forum, female smokers voiced their own, mostly positive, opinions about Donskoy Tabak.

Sefatli writes [ru]:

Пачки очень крутые – белые с изображением девушек и архитектурными образами городов. Кто-ни будь виде, пробовал такие?

The packs are really cool – white with an image of girls and architectural images of cities. Has anyone tried them?
"If it’s not allowed, but you really want it, then you can." Source:

"If it’s not allowed, but you really want it, then you can." Source:

Apparently, AdMe reports, in 2008, Donskoy Tabak ran into legal problems when they tried to release an advert depicting a young pig-tailed girl eating ice cream, followed by the slogan: “If it’s not allowed, but you really want it, then you can.”

The ad was eventually released, AdMe says, and Donsky Tabak was made to pay a fine of 100,000 rubles.

Commenter mikesite [ru] philosophized:

Так написано же: “Если нельзя, но очень хочется, то можно” это же ведь не только рекламный слоган сигарет, это принцип, по которому живут все дохерархи нашей страны

And it’s even written: “If it’s not allowed, but you really want it, then you can”, which is not merely the advertising slogan for a cigarette, it’s the principle, by which all our doherachs [a mixture of the words “oligarch” and “do hera” (“a lot” – ru) referencing to Russian tycoons] live.


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