Menthol cigarette makers historically targeted black communities, researchers say


Advertisements in magazines and billboards are among the strategic marketing methods practiced by tobacco industry leaders to increase black consumption.

As national discussions of racial gaps in the use of menthol cigarettes have been reignited by the Federal Drug Administration’s recently proposed ban on highly addictive products, researchers draw attention to the long history of advertising on menthol cigarettes that directly targeted black communities.

Keith Wailoo, professor at Princeton University, historian and author of the 2021 book Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold History of Menthol Cigarettessaid the latest effort to ban menthol cigarettes has been “a long time coming”, according to NPR.

In this photo, menthol <a class=cigarettes lie on a table on April 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3Nw–/–~B/aD02OTM7dz0xMDI0O2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/″/>

In this photo, menthol cigarettes lie on a table on April 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By University of Chicago Press, Wailoo’s book contains an in-depth analysis of tobacco industry documents that exposes the creation of “purchasing habits and racial markets” for menthol cigarettes that have endured for decades. 85% of black smokers preferred menthol cigarettes, according to a 2018 national survey published in the Oxford Journals of Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Menthol, according to FDA proposal, enhances nicotine addiction and flavor makes cigarettes “easier” to use, as reported NPR. For this reason, Wailoo told the outlet, they are considered by the industry to be ideal “starter products.”

In 1964, tobacco companies were banned by the federal government from marketing to buyers under 21, after which “the industry began to aggressively shift to targeted marketing in black communities” , Wailoo said.

A wave of images promoting menthol cigarettes was then seen on billboards in black communities and in magazines with black audiences, generating revenue that some publications began to rely on, Wailoo said.

“A lot of black periodicals, like Ebony, became so addicted to tobacco advertising that they kept silent about the devastating impact of smoking in the black community,” he said. NPRadding that the marketing tactics also included strategically offering free samples to influencers in the community.

Wailoo told the outlet that menthol cigarettes were given to black barbers and grooms as a market-creating tactic, and tobacco companies also sought to increase black consumption by sponsoring events such as the Kool Jazz Festival with a promotional advertisement featuring Dizzy Gillespie.

According to NPR, racially-charged ads continued for decades. The outlet reported that a 2011 advertisement for Newport cigarettes featured a happy young black couple enjoying a burger and fries with the word “pleasure!” marked below.

The NAACP is among advocacy groups nationwide voicing support for the FDA’s proposal to ban menthol and flavored cigarettes, a ban that comes after decades of federal attempts to address health concerns. public caused by smoking.

The association referenced “blatant marketing practices” throughout the tobacco industry‘s history in a statement to Biden administration officials, Health and Human Services Department Secretary Xavier Becerra. social services and Ambassador Susan Rice, who leads the domestic policy council and advises the president on issues. of racial inequity.

Rice, who is helping lead the latest effort to ban menthol cigarettes, said leGrioof April Ryan: “It is estimated that by banning menthol cigarettes, we will save up to 650,000 American lives. Of these, 240,000 people are black lives.

lesGrio’s april ryan contributed to this report.

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