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Report - Smoking in Low Socioeconomic Status Populations: Prevalence, Health Impact, Challenges and Recommendations

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Tobacco Industry Marketing to Low SES Populations

Low socioeconomic status (SES) populations are also victims of the tobacco industry's unscrupulous marketing practices. The tobacco industry targets low SES individuals and communities by using deceptive marketing practices and by providing generous funding to organizations that provide services to vulnerable populations.

  • In the mid-1990s, R.J. Reynolds created a campaign called Project SCUM (Subculture Urban Marketing), which was aimed at gay men in the Castro district and homeless individuals in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.
  • Tobacco companies have also been known to give cigarette-branded logo products to the homeless. Approximately 7,000 "Merit" blankets were given to New York homeless shelters and to homeless individuals in 1994 by Philip Morris.
  • One study found that low income and minority communities had a greater number of tobacco retailers than higher income communities, as well as larger tobacco advertisements, lower advertised prices and tobacco advertisements occurring within 1,000 feet of a school.
  • Another study found that billboards containing tobacco advertising were found predominately in low-income and African American communities
  • Tobacco companies have made allies with military and other government officials in an effort to continue offering military service men and women tobacco products at a discounted priced.
  • These companies also appeal to military personnel by packaging their products in order to appear "patriotic." Philip Morris specifically developed the 1776 brand for military personnel and has designed the package complete with the American flag and the colors gold, red, white and blue.
  • The tobacco industry also markets its products towards individuals within the working class (blue collar) and rural populations. Companies such as R.J. Reynolds and Copenhagen routinely create ads showing rugged, "manly," and cowboy figures to entice rural and working class individuals to buy their products.
  • Tobacco companies also sponsor sporting events such as car racing and rodeos in an effort to promote their products to fans.
  • R.J. Reynolds had a marketing strategy to aim their products directly at women with no more than a high school education and from low-income households.
  • Tobacco companies began marketing "low tar" and "light" cigarettes directly to women, creating the illusion that these products are a healthier and safer alternative to regular cigarettes.
  • Tobacco companies have been known to give away free household items or food products such as milk, sodas, turkeys, and cleaning products with the purchase of a pack of cigarettes.

Other topics:

Please download the report for data references.

This report was developed by Break Free Alliance for the Advocacy and Data dissemination to achieve Equity for Priority populations on Tobacco (ADEPT) project, funded through the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) of California, which administered the project's funding from the California Cancer Research Fund* for the University of California. ADEPT operates on the premise that: 1) There is a disproportionate impact of cancer and tobacco-related diseases on vulnerable populations; 2) While some critical data have been collected on various vulnerable populations in California, this data has not been widely disseminated; 3) Wide dissemination of critical tobacco data for vulnerable populations can expand the knowledge base and lead to increased mobilization of communities on tobacco prevention interventions and policy initiatives.

*Contributions to the California Cancer Research Fund are used to conduct research relating to the causes, detection, and prevention of cancer and to expand community-based education on cancer, and to provide prevention and awareness activities for communities that are disproportionately at risk or afflicted by cancer.
Look for the voluntary contribution lines or tell your tax preparer about donating to the California Breast Cancer Research Fund on line 405 and/or the California Cancer Research Fund on line 413 of your state tax Form 540. To learn more information about California's Voluntary Contributions, see the Franchise Tax Board's FAQ page.






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