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Tobacco Companies Want Kid to Smoke. Are You Okay With That?

$9.5 billion. That’s the amount of money tobacco companies spend each year marketing their deadly products in the United States. With today’s stringent tobacco marketing laws, they’re exploiting new, effective marketing strategies, including targeting minorities. Whether it’s African Americans, service members, women, children, or a host of other minority groups, the tobacco industry has a marketing plan to suit them all.

Tobacco companies target African Americans.

In the 1960s, the tobacco company Brown and Williamson developed the Kool brand of cigarettes specifically for the African-American community. Today, Kools and other menthols are still extremely popular among this group. The smoking prevalence in African-American communities remains much higher than that of the general population, and quitting rates are lower. A 2007 study found that majority-black neighborhoods had 2.6 times as many cigarette ads per capita as other neighborhoods. This is alarming, as African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival period of any racial or ethnic group for most cancers. In 2016, it is estimated that 24,700 African Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer… and 17,000 African Americans will die from it.

Tobacco companies target service members.

In 1998, The Master Settlement Agreement ended all collaboration between the tobacco industry and the U.S. military. However, because of decades of influence, a military culture of smoking still exists today. In 2005, the smoking rate of military personnel was just over 32%, much higher than the civilian rate of 21%. With that comes millions of lost dollars in direct healthcare costs and lost productivity among active duty personnel.

Tobacco companies target children.

They aggressively promote their products using a variety of tactics that are appealing to children. Tobacco is marketed in exotic flavors wrapped in brightly colored packaging, a proven technique for marketing to young people. They place products and advertisements in stores and gas stations at the direct eye-level of children. They even place products in movies and video games. It’s all part of their strategy to recruit new generations of tobacco users and “replacement smokers.” It’s a term the industry uses to describe new smokers who replace the ones they’ve killed.

As a result of tobacco marketing and other influences, every day more than 3,800 children younger than the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. Another 2,100 youth who are occasional smokers become daily smokers. Even more daunting is the fact that every adult who dies early from smoking is replaced by two new child or teen smokers. If current trends hold, one of those two will also die early from smoking.

By understanding the tactics tobacco companies employ to recruit new smokers, Oklahomans can be better prepared to combat the industry’s influence on our children’s health and future. Learn more about Big Tobacco and their deceptive tactics at StopsWithMe.com.

If you use tobacco and are thinking about quitting, call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit OKhelpline.com for free resources and nonjudgmental support.