Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics have majorly impacted the health inequities we are experiencing in today’s climate. Tobacco is a social justice issue.
How flavored and menthol tobacco products impact specific populations:
The tobacco industry has historically and aggressively marketed commercial tobacco products, particularly menthol products, to young people and African Americans, especially in urban and low socioeconomic neighborhoods.
- There are up to 10 times more tobacco ads in black neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods.
- Tobacco use is the top cause of preventable death and disease among African Americans.
- Research suggests higher disease rates among African Americans may result in part from menthol smoking.
- Among middle and high school students, 70.5% of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes, compared to 51.4% of whites who smoke.
In July 2020, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis. Our collective work to end the harm of commercial tobacco has revealed stark examples of deeply entrenched institutional racism. Look no further than the FDA, which for more than a decade has left menthol tobacco products on the market, despite the overwhelming death and disease caused by these products in Black communities. The tobacco industry has deliberately and consistently channeled menthol tobacco products into Black communities. Yet, menthol is still the only flavored cigarette left on the market.
- LGBTQ young adults are nearly 2 times as likely to smoke as their straight peers.
- In 1995, the tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds, created a marketing strategy called “Project SCUM” (Sub-Culture Urban Marketing) to boost cigarette sales by targeting gay men and homeless individuals with advertisements and displays placed in communities and stores.
- 36% of adult LGBTQ smokers, smoke menthol compared to only 29% of heterosexual adult smokers.
- 70% of LGBTQ youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes.
- More than one third (34%) of MN High School students who smoke use menthol. In comparison, only one-quarter of MN adults who smoke use menthol.
- Preference for menthol cigarettes among MN high school students who smoke has more than doubled since 2000.
- Studies show that the tobacco industry has manipulated menthol levels in its products to broaden youth appeal.
- Tobacco companies target youth at music festivals and by handing out vouchers at concerts, bars and convenience stores.
- There are more tobacco retailers near school in low-income areas than in other areas
- Approximately 72% of those who smoke are from lower income communities and nearly 27% of their income is spent on tobacco products.
- Individuals with mental illness account for 46% of cigarettes sold in the U.S.
- Persons with mental illness or substance use disorders consume about 40% of the US tobacco market
- People with substance use disorders who smoke are much more likely to die from their tobacco use than from their drug or alcohol addiction.