For years, the tobacco industry has targeted diverse populations. They have used manipulative advertising and product discounts to get people hooked to their deadly products, and it worked. Many minority populations now have higher rates of tobacco use, secondhand smoke exposure, and higher rates of tobacco-related disease than the general public. On this page you will find some of the tobacco industry's tactics with each group and how it has impacted tobacco use rates.
For decades, menthol cigarettes have been heavily marketed to the African American community through magazine ads, billboards, retailers, and more. In neighborhoods that are predominantly African American, there are up to 10 times more tobacco ads than other neighborhoods, and those ads are typically for menthol cigarettes. The results of those advertisements and price discounts has led to nearly 8 out of 10 African American smokers choosing menthol cigarettes over non-flavored cigarettes.
It hasn't stopped there. Now tobacco companies are pushing other flavored tobacco products, such as cigarillos, and pricing them lower in predominately African American neighborhoods.
Asian / Pacific Islander
The tobacco industry has been aggressive in targeting this community, placing more advertisements on billboards and inside stores in urban areas that are mostly Asian/Pacific Islander.
Those advertisements have worked. While tobacco use rates among Asian/Pacific Islanders are lower than any other diverse population, if you break the data down by gender you will see that men have a higher rate than the general population (16.1% vs. 12.4%).
Hispanic / Latino
The tobacco industry has "supported" the Hispanic community by funding primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and even scholarship programs. They did this to "support" the future of the community. How can they support the future of the community but then promote a deadly product and charge less in predominately Hispanic communities?
While tobacco use rates within this community are similar to the general population, their rates for lung cancer are not. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among the Hispanic population.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT)
The tobacco industry has a long history of "supporting" the LGBT community. They did this by advertising in LGBT publications and sponsoring events. They used these advertisements to promote smoking as a way to bond with others and relieve stress. This has led to the LGBT community smoking at a rate 2 to 3 times higher than the general population.
The tobacco industry also planned a marketing strategy to target the LGBT population in San Francisco and called it "Project Scum" (subculture urban marketing). Scum? This is what the tobacco industry thinks of the LGBT community.
Learn more, view How the Tobacco Industry Exploits the LGBT Community (PDF).
Communities that are mostly low income are viewed as extremely profitable to the tobacco industry. In these neighborhoods, there are more stores in a smaller area and have some of the lowest prices on tobacco products. That way the tobacco industry can keep them hooked for life.
Besides more stores and lower prices, the tobacco industry used to hand out free cigarettes to minors and continues to send coupons through the mail to encourage using their products.
Native American / American Indian
The Native American population has the highest smoking rates of all racial/ethnic groups. Some Native Americans use tobacco for ceremonial, medicinal, or religious purposes. However, it is important to know there is a difference between Native American traditional tobacco use and commercial tobacco use. Since tobacco is used in a traditional way, the tobacco industry has preyed on these traditions by funding powwows and supporting brands like American Spirit, which they promote as "natural".
The tobacco industry also utilizes Native American casinos to distribute their products. They help fund these businesses in exchange for carrying their products and perpetuating the idea that their casinos will only stay successful if people are allowed to smoke indoors. Research shows that casinos can actually be more profitable if smoking is not allowed.
Learn more about tobacco use among Native Americans/American Indians and how to protect these communities from secondhand smoke (PDF).
The rural community has been heavily target, remember the Marlboro Man? Supposedly showing this community the true meaning of being a cowboy. However, it was not just the Marlboro man; the tobacco industry also depicted images of farmers, hunters, and frontier/country life. These advertisements along with lower tobacco prices than urban areas continues the cycle of social acceptance of tobacco use within the rural population. So much so that rural communities have a smoking rate of 15.1% compared to 12.1% in urban areas.
With increased tobacco use rates among this population, it has led to higher rates of lung cancer as well as a higher risk for heart disease.