Tobacco marketing and African Americans

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American tobacco companies directly target mentholated cigarettes to African Americans, making them a direct contributor to the increase in adverse health effects of tobacco on African Americans. By drawing upon cultural stereotypes and playing off the desire to eliminate racial inequalities, tobacco companies have posed cigarettes, specifically menthol cigarettes, as an accessory of necessity for African Americans seeking to maintain their culture and sense of "blackness", but also seeking upward social mobility.

Menthol in tobacco[edit]

Menthol has been used as a medicinal practice for thousands of years.[1] It is steamed and distilled from peppermint oil to serve as a mild anesthetic that numbs the throat.[2] Simultaneously, it protects the throat from the harsh elements of tobacco smoke, thus allowing for a deeper and longer inhalation.[3] In 1926, Axton-Fisher introduced a mentholated cigarette called "spud" after its original patent-holder.[2] Brown & Williamson launched a mentholated Kool in 1933 and priced it at $0.15, 25 cents cheaper than spud.[2] Thus began the idea of mint flavored cigarettes and the eventual targeting of African Americans.

Health effects[edit]

Menthol cigarettes have higher carbon monoxide concentrations than non-mentholated cigarettes and may be associated with greater absorption of nicotine. Specifically, research indicates that mentholated cigarettes may increase the risk of lung and bronchial cancer by promoting lung permeability and diffusion of smoke particles.[4]

African Americans are the only ethnic group to suffer disproportionately from smoking-caused chronic and preventable diseases.[5] Evident in the approximately 45,000 African Americans who die from smoking-caused illness each year. Studies indicate that an estimated 1.6 million African Americans under the age of 18 who are alive today will become regular smokers.[6] Consequently, about 500,000 of these individuals well die prematurely from tobacco-related disease.[5] This is a direct result of the targeting of cigarette advertisements, specifically mentholated advertisements, to African Americans.

Cool and "Kool"[edit]

Vernacular Origins of Cool: Jazz[edit]

The vernacular origins of cool stemmed directly from the jazz culture of the 1950s and 1960s. It was during this time that the term cool went from a definition of cold to an urban definition of being: "The Birth of Cool".

Prior to Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool, to the Caucasian population, jazz was a preppy, college-aged event that involved playing jazz music in garages and small groups. The African American understood jazz as a music closer to bebop. It was incredibly fast-paced compared to the jazz of today. With the Birth of the Cool, Miles Davis infused the use of drugs into jazz and turned it into a laid back entity completely about being one's self—being cool. People did not have much, what mattered was not tomorrow, but the idea of living passionately and differently in the present.

Being cool was not just about being bad, but it was to take ownership in one's self. To be cool was to be stoic in regards to emotion. it was to be confident and have a clear vision of one's self. It was being true to ones self and one's culture; finding one's self and "keeping it real". This is the culture that transformed the Harlem Renaissance—living differently and in style.

Kool[edit]

The Kool brand capitalized off this new culture of "coolness" in African American culture that evolved from the Davis' jazz movement.[1] They drew upon the idea of "coolness" to define their brand, Kool. It was then associated with a very positive, glamorous self-image which embodied the idea of cool found in jazz. This attempt was evident in their first tagline: "To be cool you smoke Kool". Later, they further infused the idea of cool and glamorous with the line, "Smoking a Kool? Like riding a Rolls Royce".[7] B&W used Kool to substantiate the idea of a cool lifestyle. Kool was freshness, cold, but more importantly, Kool was cool.

Marketing[edit]

Targeting[edit]

Tobacco companies directly advertise mentholated tobacco products to African Americans. This became clear in a 2002 study where it was found that within poor environments that had a greater quantity of African Americans, there were more interior and exterior tobacco advertisements in retail outlets than in predominantly white and middle to upper class communities.[8] These were mentholated cigarette advertisements. Tobacco companies pushed mentholated cigarettes to these "poor and minority neighborhoods",[9] "not because they're African American", but "because they like menthol cigarettes".[10] Through advertisements of Kool, B&W capitalized on many African Americans' positive view of mentholation and its medicinal properties.[11] This was not just the idea of one tobacco company. Philip Morris USA agreed that menthol was what young African Americans wanted and thus introduced a Marlboro Smooth, pushing the idea of "smoother" to insinuate the reduction of menthol in comparison with Kool.[12] R.J. Reynolds, on the other hand, promoted their brand of mentholated cigarettes, Salem, in an effort to achieve the same results.[13] Through direct targeting mentholated cigarettes towards of African Americans tobacco companies hoped to secure a niche within the market and significantly boost their sales.

Practice[edit]

The advertisement of mentholated tobacco was employed within the African American community efficiently and effectively. In 1997, R.J. Reynolds spent an estimated $10 – 15 million on advertisement for a new Camel menthol brand inside a leading advertising-related magazine entitled Advertising Age.[13] Likewise, in July 1999, Philip Morris began testing a new version of their best selling Marlboro menthol brand in hopes of attracting more African American customers.[13] Companies found themselves capitalizing off the use of menthol in African American culture and thus directly targeted their mentholated products towards them. Exemplifying the capacity of this targeting practice, a 2008 study in California stated that the number of cigarette ads per store, and the proportion of stores with at least one ad for sales promotion, increased more rapidly in neighborhoods with a higher proportion of African Americans.[14] In 2007, in comparison to the white majority areas, there were 2.6 times more tobacco advertisements per person in areas with an African American majority.[15] Moreover, prior to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement ban on tobacco billboard advertising in 1999, there was a significant increase in tobacco related billboards in ethnic communities over white communities as well.[15] Billboards were located mostly in lower income areas with a higher percentage of African Americans.[16] Here, there was a 70% higher chance that billboards were tobacco related.[15] In St. Louis alone, 20% of billboard advertising and four out of the five top brands on billboards were tobacco related.[16] In addition, magazine advertisements of the mentholated cigarettes popular with African Americans increased from 13% of total ad expenditures in 1998 to 49% in 2005.[15] To this effect, recent studies have found that more cigarette ads are placed in African American magazines, such as Ebony and Jet, than magazines like Time and People.[15] Tobacco companies deliberately used research regarding African American and menthol to gear advertisement of tobacco on mentholated products in African American communities.

Results[edit]

Direct advertising of mentholated tobacco products has had detrimental effects on the usage of cigarettes within the African American community. Advertising practices have been successful, and as a result of such targeting practices, the average African American adult has been exposed to about 892 ads and the youth, 559 ads.[15] In addition, among both adult and youth smokers, Newport, Kool and Marlboro are the most popular brands.[13] Moreover, about 42% of black adults smoke Newport, while 84% of young African Americans smoke this brand as well.[13] This clearly shows the aggressive, targeted advertisement of methylated cigarettes by tobacco companies has paid off. African Americans are the top consumer of all mentholated products.

Hip-hop culture[edit]

Hip-hop culture came to replace jazz culture among the youth in the black community. Kool adopted images associated with hip-hop culture to continue the market of their products to African American youths. Kool began using hip-hop brands with popular disk jockeys emblazoned on the packs of Kool Menthol Caribbean Chill to entice minorities.[17] Many products were made just for African American consumers such as Marlboro Menthol Shorts, which were advertised as being "exquisitely designed for the African American lung."[17]

Sponsorship[edit]

The late 90s saw the sponsoring of hip-hop events and cigarette give-aways. An important marketing tool for tobacco companies was corporate sponsorships because they served as both sales promotions and public relations functions. During the period of 1995 - 1999, tobacco companies sponsored at least 2733 events, programs, and organizations throughout the United States and the minimum total funding of these sponsorships was $365.4 million. The sponsorships involved numerous small, community-based organizations that received funding and grants through larger umbrella organizations, many of these were part of the public health infrastructure. Due to this, public health practitioners needed to develop better surveillance systems for monitoring tobacco sponsorships, to seek alternative funding sources for tobacco sponsored events and organizations, and to consider promoting a ban on tobacco sponsorship, possibly linking such regulation to the creation of alternative funding sources.[18]

State Attorneys General vs. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.[edit]

The attorneys general of New York, Maryland, and Illinois filed suit against the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. over the marketing of Kool cigarettes. The lawsuits had asserted that the company's 2004 Kool MIXX promotion, which was billed by the company as a supposed celebration of hip-hop music and culture, violated the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) by targeting African American youth. The Kool Mixx campaign featured images of disc jockeys, young rappers, and dancers on cigarette packs and in advertising. All of the contests and events held appealed to the youth, especially African American.[13] At the same time, B&W was introducing a new line of flavors using images of African Americans and themes appealing to them.[13] A settlement was reached with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which acquired the assets of Brown & Williamson in July. Under the settlement, R.J. Reynolds agreed to substantial limitations on all future "Kool MIXX" promotions, and agreed to pay $1.46 million to be used for youth smoking prevention purposes. "This settlement is important for two reasons. First, it sends a strong message to the tobacco industry that we will not tolerate efforts to market cigarettes to children," said Attorney General Spitzer. "Second, this is the first time that the industry has agreed to marketing limitations that are even stricter than those set forth in the MSA, which will be helpful in future enforcement efforts. Overall, this landmark settlement will reduce the number of children who start smoking, and thereby protect them from a lifetime of addiction and disease."[19] As the nation's leading cause of preventable death, tobacco kills over 45,000 African Americans each year. This campaign targeted a hip hop audience, including youth. "I hope this settlement sends a strong message that kids are off-limits for tobacco companies," said Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran.

Under the settlement, R.J. Reynolds agreed to significant restrictions on all future Kool MIXX promotions, including:

  • Prohibiting use of the words Kool, Mixx or House of Menthol on any merchandise;
  • Prohibiting the use of hip-hop songs and interactive games on the CD-ROM;
  • Limiting the distribution of CD-ROMs to adult-only facilities and by mail to known adult smokers;
  • Prohibiting the sale of special edition packs in retail stores, and instead limiting distribution to adult-only facilities;
  • Prohibiting the separate House of Menthol website; and
  • Ensuring that any Kool MIXX print advertisements are placed only in magazines with relatively low youth readership.[19]

Social mobility[edit]

Tobacco advertising to African Americans also reflected the classic ideas of the American Dream.[13] Historically, African Americans were subject to less access than whites to the commodities which comprised this dream. On the heels of the Civil Rights movement and the mist of the Vietnam War, companies such as Kool took advantage of the new opportunities for African American upward mobility and marketed toward these desires. Despite this opportunity for social mobility, which was ostensibly available to everyone, middle class African Americans still found themselves earning 10% less than the average white.[20] In particular, inside the 1967 issue of Ebony magazine, "Negro Youth: Anger, Anxious and Aware", Kool seized the opportunity to market themselves as the glamorous alternative to reality.[21] Behind a cover, "illustrating a broke brick wall", was an advertisement of luxury and leisure-"come up to the Kool taste".[22] African Americans were very much concerned about their image as cool.[20] Tobacco advertisement directly played into this need by representing African Americans as happy, confident, successful, wealthy, in love, attractive, strong and independent.[13] This was opposite the normal portrayal of African Americans in the media. Ads instead represented an assimilation of aspirations. Males were tall, dark and handsome; females had light skin and straight hair.[22] What was represented was more than a world full of leisure products that before the 1960s were used solely by white consumers—it attempted to portray a would utopia. The world was de-racialized exemplified in the Kool ad question mark. Not only did all ethnicities belong, they were successful and—most importantly—smoked tobacco with one another.

Additional case[edit]

Brown vs. Philip Morris, Inc.[edit]

In the case of Brown versus Philip Morris, Inc., the Reverend Jesse Brown attempted to highlight the economic racism of cigarette marketing through a civil rights claim. The Brown complaint stated that the "Defendant have for many years targeted African Americans and their communities with specific advertising to lure them into using mentholated tobacco products."[23] Brown raised the issues of discrimination, niche marketing, and the "staggering loss of life, premature disability, disease, illness, and economic loss" that were the result of the "Tobacco Companies international and racially discrimination fraudulent course of mis conduct."[23]

Brown contended that menthol cigarettes contained enhanced dangers over other cigarettes. Brown began by explaining that the ingredient menthol contains compounds such as benzopyrene, which are carcinogenic when smoked. Second, he argued that mentholated cigarettes contain higher nicotine and tar levels than non-mentholated cigarettes. Thirdly, Brown claimed that menthol encourages deeper and longer inhalation of tobacco smoke, increasing the addictive properties of the cigarette and decreasing the lung's ability to rid itself of carcinogenic components of smoke. Based on evidence submitted in Brown, mentholated cigarettes account for between 60-75 percent of the cigarettes smoked by African Americans—and 90 percent of African American youth who smoke, smoke menthols.

The case was dismissed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2001, most likely due to the fact that Reverend Brown brought this injury claim as a civil rights suit, providing a radical departure from defective products. By claiming transgression of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, originally written to protect recently freed slaves from a variety of discriminatory practices, the complainants of the Brown suit sought to show the unconstitutionality of targeting African Americans with defective products. The Brown complaint failed to take into consideration that the menthol cigarettes were still posing a threat to non-African American as well and that harm was being caused to more than just the African American community.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b (Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,302)
  2. ^ a b c Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,301
  3. ^ Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010., 301
  4. ^ ("2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>.,2-3
  5. ^ a b "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>.,3
  6. ^ "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>., 3
  7. ^ (Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,303)
  8. ^ "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>., 1
  9. ^ Luke, Douglas, Emily Esmundo, and Yael Bloom. "Smoke Signs: Patterns of Tobacco Billboard Advertising in a Metropolitan Region." JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie. BMJ Publishing Group, Mar. 2000. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20207731?>.16
  10. ^ (Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,301 Jeffrey G. Weil is quoted)
  11. ^ Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,203
  12. ^ "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>.1-2
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>.,2
  14. ^ "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>.,1)
  15. ^ a b c d e f "2010Feb19TOBACCO COMPANY MARKETING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS." Foster Folly News - Chipley, Florida Online Newspaper. 22 February 2010. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.fosterfollynews.com/news/2010Feb19TOBACCOCOMPANYMARKETINGTOAFRICANAMERICANS.php>.,1
  16. ^ a b Luke, Douglas, Emily Esmundo, and Yael Bloom. "Smoke Signs: Patterns of Tobacco Billboard Advertising in a Metropolitan Region." JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie. BMJ Publishing Group, Mar. 2000. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20207731?>.,16
  17. ^ a b Connolly, G. N. "Cover Essay: Sweet and Spicy Flavours: New Brands for Minorities and Youth." JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie. BMJ Publishing Group, Sept. 2004. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20208243?&Search=yes&term=menthol&term=african&term=american&term=tobacco&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dtobacco%2Bafrican%2Bamerican%2Bmenthol%2B%26gw%3Djtx%26prq%3Dtobacco%2Bafrican%2Bamerican%2Badvertising%2Bkool%26Search%3DSearch%26hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=4&ttl=89&returnArticleService=showArticle>.,212
  18. ^ Rosenberg, N. J., and Michael Segel. "Use of Corporate Sponsorship as a Tobacco Marketing Tool: A Review of Tobacco Industry Sponsorship in the USA, 1995-99." JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie. BMJ Publishing Group, Sept. 2001. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/20207931.pdf>.,239
  19. ^ a b "Landmark Settlement of "Kool Mixx" Tobacco Lawsuits." THE MEDICAL NEWS | from News-Medical.Net - Latest Medical News and Research from Around the World. The Medical News, 4 October 2004. Web. 29 April 2010. <http://www.news-medical.net/news/2004/10/06/5374.aspx?page=2>.
  20. ^ a b Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010., 303
  21. ^ Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,304
  22. ^ a b Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,305
  23. ^ a b Jain, Sarah S.L. ""Come Up to the Kool Taste": African American Upward Mobility and the Semiotics of Smoking Menthols." Public Culture (2003): 295-322. Web. 6 April 2010.,296