Communities the Tobacco Industry Targets

Stooping to New Lows

The tobacco industry markets hard in some communities. They go after people who have faced racism and other discrimination, people earning lower incomes, and people who are stressed or struggling. It’s time for these racist and discriminatory practices to end.

American Indian and Alaska Native Peoples

For many tribal communities, traditional tobacco is a sacred plant used for healing, prayer and celebration. Colonizers stole it, mixed in deadly additives, and market commercial tobacco back to tribal communities to create addiction. 

The tobacco industry harms tribes and Native communities in Oregon. It steals cultural imagery and misrepresents sacred traditions to sell its products.1 Sovereign Tribal Nations are not subject to state and local smoke-free laws and other protections. The commercial tobacco industry sees these Nations as open opportunities to maximize profits through promotions, events and giveaways.2

In Oregon, 30 percent of American Indians smoke compared to 18 percent of non-Hispanic whites.3

In Oregon, Native-led organizations and the state’s nine federally recognized tribes have united to fight back. They are using their tribal culture to prevent commercial tobacco use and fight tobacco industry tactics. The Native Quit Line offers culturally-specific help for American Indian and Alaska Native peoples to quit tobacco.

Combat tobacco industry targeting; find out what’s going on in your community.

Latinos/as/x

The tobacco industry has targeted Latinos/as/x since at least the 1980s, developing campaigns in Spanish – like Nuestra Gente (“our people”) – that appropriated traditional Latinos/as/x cultural values to sell tobacco. Studies have documented that some tobacco products are advertised disproportionately to Hispanics, such as brands named “Rio” and the earlier “Dorado.”4 These are tactics to try and hook Latinos/as/xs on tobacco by making it seem like part of the culture.

The tobacco industry also gives large cash contributions to organizations representing Latinos/as/xs to improve the industry’s image and gain political influence. And it uses civic organizations, like chambers of commerce and political action committees, to promote its products to Latino/a/x communities.5

Combat tobacco industry targeting; find out what’s going on in your community.

LGBTQIA+ People

In the LGBTQIA+ community, the tobacco industry steals cherished values — like freedom, choice, pride and a sense of belonging — to sell its deadly product. This has paid off handsomely for the industry. In Oregon, about 20 percent of lesbian and gay and 27 percent of bisexual Oregon adults smoke cigarettes, compared to 17 percent of heterosexuals.6

For decades, the tobacco industry has made efforts to appeal to LGBTQIA+ consumers through things like targeted advertisements in LGBTQIA+ press, cigarette giveaways and free tobacco industry merchandise. The tobacco industry marketed to this community often by depicting tobacco use as a normal part of LGBTQIA+ life.7

Then and now, the industry has targeted the LGBTQIA+ community with financial support of events, media and organizations. It’s trying to make tobacco use a natural part of LGBTQIA+ life.8

Combat tobacco industry targeting; find out what’s going on in your community.

Black and African Americans

Starting in the 1970s, the tobacco industry latched onto the Black and African American community’s preference for menthol cigarettes. It stole themes of black empowerment and identity to create the “Kool” brand and other types of advertisements. It saturated Black and African American magazines and neighborhoods with ads that made smoking menthols seem like part of the community’s culture and experience.

Studies show that people in Black and African American neighborhoods, especially in lower-income areas, are more likely to see more tobacco ads at store checkout counters than people in neighborhoods with more white residents. These ads tend to be larger, to advertise products at lower prices, and to be located closer to schools.9

Today, more than 58 percent of Black and African Americans who smoke buy menthols, compared to nearly 15 percent of white people who smoke.15 And menthol may make it harder to quit than other tobacco products.16

People with Mental Health Challenges

About 40 percent of cigarettes sold in the U.S. are smoked by people living with mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety or substance use problems.10 To recruit these customers, the tobacco industry works with groups that help patients, donating money in exchange for promoting its product.11

The industry has funded misleading research to promote two false claims: that it is bad for people living with mental health or substance use challenges to quit tobacco, and that nicotine helps improve their mood.12 It’s even given free cigarettes to psychiatric facilities and promoted tobacco as a way to help patients relax and improve their moods.13 When psychiatric hospitals have tried to pass smoke-free policies, the tobacco industry works to block them to keep patients using their products.14

Combat tobacco industry targeting; find out what’s going on in your community.

  1. American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network. (n.d.) Manipulating a sacred tradition: an investigation of commercial tobacco marketing & sales strategies on the Navajo nation and other native tribes. Retrieved from http://action.fightcancer.org/site/DocServer/Industry_Influence-_Indi- an_Lands-_Indian_Gaming.pdf ?docID=8902

  2. National Native Network: Keep It Sacred. (2015). Commercial tobacco. Retrieved from http://keepitsacred.itcmi.org/tobacco-and-tradition/ commercial-tobacco/

    National Native Network: Keep It Sacred. (2015). Tobacco abuse prevalence. Retrieved from http://keepitsacred.itcmi.org/ tobacco-and-tradition/tobacco-abuse-prevalence/

    American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network. (n.d.) Manipulating a sacred tradition: an investigation of commercial tobacco marketing & sales strategies on the Navajo nation and other native tribes. Retrieved from http://action.fightcancer.org/site/DocServer/Industry_Influence-_Indi- an_Lands-_Indian_Gaming.pdf ?docID=8902

    Cooper, C. (2015). American Indian imagery and cigarette branding. National Native Network: Keep It Sacred. Retrieved from https://keepitsacred.itcmi.org/2015/10/american-indian-imagery-and-cigarette-branding/

  3. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. Oregon chronic disease data. Retrieved from https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/DataReports/Pages/index.aspx

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1998). Tobacco use among U.S. racial/ethnic minority groups—African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

  5. Campaign for Tobacco-free kids. “Tobacco Use and Hispanics,” November 2019. https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/factsheets/0134.pdf

  6. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. Oregon chronic disease data. Retrieved from https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/DataReports/Pages/index.aspx

  7. Truth Initiative. (2018, February 13). Fact sheet: Tobacco use in LGBT communities. Retrieved from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/targeted-communities/tobacco-use-lgbt-communities

  8. University of California Davis/Center for Evaluation and Research: Tobacco Control Evaluation Center. “Culture in Evaluation #1: LGBT.” http://tobaccoeval.ucdavis.edu/documents/culture_lgbt.pdf; Stone, M., and Siegel, M. 2004. Tobacco Industry Sponsorship of Community-Based Public Health Initiatives: Why AIDS and Domestic Violence Organizations Accept or Refuse Funds. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 10(6): 511-517.

  9. Hyland, A., Travers, M.J., Cummings, K.M., Bauer, J., Alford, T., & Wieczorek, W.F. (2003). Tobacco outlet density and demographics in Erie County, New York. American Journal of Public Health, 93(7), 1075-1076.

    Schneider, J.E., Reid, R.J., Peterson, N.A., Lowe, J.B., & Hughey, J. (2005). Tobacco outlet density and demographics at the tract level of analysis in Iowa: implications for environmentally based prevention initiatives. Prevention Science, 6(4), 319-325.

    Siahpush, M., Jones, P.R., Singh, G.K., Timsina, L.R., & Martin, J. (2010). Association of availability of tobacco products with socio-economic and racial/ethnic characteristics of neighbourhoods. Public Health, 24(9), 525-529.

    Peterson, N.A., Yu, D., Morton, C.M., Reid, R.J., Sheffer, M.A., & Schneider, J.E. (2011). Tobacco outlet density and demographics at the tract level of analysis in New Jersey: a statewide analysis. Drugs Education Prevention and Policy, 18(1), 47-52.

  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2013, March 30). The NSDUH Report Data Spotlight: Adults with Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorder Account for 40 Percent of All Cigarettes Smoked. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/spot104-cigarettes-mental-illness-substance-use-disorder/spot104-cigarettes-mental-illness-substance-use-disorder.pdf

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Best Practices User Guide: Health Equity in Tobacco Prevention and Control. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2013). Vital signs: current cigarette smoking among adults aged ≥18 years with mental illness – United States, 2009-2011. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 62(5), 81–87.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Best Practices User Guide: Health Equity in Tobacco Prevention and Control. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.

  13. Truth Initiative. (2017, August 20). Tobacco is a social justice issue: Mental health. Retrieved from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/targeted-communities/tobacco-social-justice-issue-mental-health

  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2013). Vital signs: current cigarette smoking among adults aged ≥18 years with mental illness – United States, 2009-2011. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 62(5), 81–87.

  15. Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. Oregon chronic disease data. Retrieved from https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/DataReports/Pages/index.aspx

  16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2020.