Study: Tobacco Ads Target Black Americans More Than Whites

Discussion
Aug 23, 2007

By George Anderson

Courtesy of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Tobacco companies have been embarrassed in the past over revelations they more aggressively targeted black consumers at a time when a growing number of white consumers were kicking the cigarette habit. It appears, based on a new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, that tobacco companies have not allowed any discomfort associated with those incidents to get in the way of efforts to aggressively target the same consumers today.

Looking at advertising activity in markets, including California, Illinois, Missouri, South Carolina, Massachusetts and elsewhere, the researchers concluded that black consumers were exposed to 2.6 times more tobacco advertising than their white counterparts.

According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, researchers counted all ads in a selected market and then determined the number and percentage of tobacco ads in relation to the racial makeup of an area. The study found that the percentage of tobacco to non-tobacco ads was 70 percent higher in black areas than in white neighborhoods.

A weakness of the study, according to the Post-Gazette, is that it uses some data stretching back as long as 20 years when, for example, tobacco billboard ads were legal. It also doesn’t factor in new forms of tobacco advertising, such as the practice of giving consumers cigarettes or merchandise in bars for adding their information to a direct marketing list.

Dr. Brian Primack, lead author of the report, told the paper, “We need to
start looking at these things.”

Discussion Questions: Do you find it plausible
that African American consumers are exposed to more tobacco advertising than
whites? Is there something “wrong” as
some have suggested in the past with tobacco companies targeting black adults?

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6 Comments on "Study: Tobacco Ads Target Black Americans More Than Whites"


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David Livingston
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

It is the job of the tobacco companies to sell as many cigarettes as possible and get as many people as they can hooked on cigarettes by any means legally possible. Is there something wrong with this? I would say yes, but that’s my opinion.

I read a local African American publication and it’s loaded with ads from the local Indian casino, yet the casino doesn’t put African-Americans in their advertisements. Other controversial products include malt liquor, the state lotto, and cash advance stores. I don’t think it’s so much the color of a person’s skin but the income and education levels of the consumers.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 9 months ago

I agree with David and Dan. The marketing industry has a goal in reaching the people most likely to be receptive to a message to try to convert them. Lots of research goes into finding the best demographic target audience and, even if the product is one that may not be good for the target audience, they go for it anyway. It’s not against the law and it’s simply a matter of free trade.

Ron Margulis
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

As the article points out, the survey is fundamentally flawed by using very old information. Also, yes, the 17 percent of Kool advertising spent on promoting the brand to African Americans is higher than the group’s proportion of the entire US population, but is it the appropriate amount given the percentage of blacks among Kool smokers? That’s the more salient point. I hate to sound like a shill for the tobacco industry, but cigarettes remain a legal product and until that changes, manufacturers should be allowed to market them however they see fit.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

The University of Pittsburgh tobacco study cites data from 1969 and 1973 because the work is a review of previous studies, not a new-from-scratch data sample. The case would have much greater credibility if the data was recent. Isn’t it odd to ask tobacco companies about their ethical standards?

Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
14 years 9 months ago

Targeted consumer marketing has been around forever. Cereal Companies target kids on Saturday morning, and laundry care Companies target moms on daytime TV with the latest home cleaning solutions, and that’s logical since those demographics have the greatest purchase and useage influence on their products.

Segmented, target marketing will gain greater levels of focus going forward, and tobacco companies are no different than any other category. Their job is to maximize their advertising spend against those consumers that most greatly impact sales.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 9 months ago

While I feel the research is probably accurate, I wonder what the results would have been if they had asked if tobacco ads target poor Americans rather than rich Americans. While I have no sympathy for any tobacco company, I have been around long enough to see when someone is doing “cause” research. Do college educated black men smoke more or less than college educated white men? I really don’t think race has any thing to do with advertising decisions. Advertising decisions are far too sophisticated to waste one penny of reach or frequency based on race. I would bet that you will find that college educated white females smoke at a higher frequency than college educated black males. I am afraid that this “report” is designed to collect headlines and beyond that is of little real value. Remember, there are lies, damn lies and statistics–we are dealing with statistics and you can’t believe anything you are reading.

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