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African Americans snubbed in youth smoke out

George Curry | 1/20/2014, 11:36 a.m.
Judge Gladys Kessler NNPA

It is ironic that the tobacco industry is bypassing Black media while complying with a federal order to disclose its deception when in the past it used the Black media to target African American consumers.

“The tobacco industry has gone to great lengths to target the African American community over the past 30 years,” the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids stated. “Through market research and aggressive advertising, the industry has successfully penetrated this population. The industry’s ‘investment’ in the African American community has had a destructive impact: African Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any ethnic or racial group in the United States.”

The anti-smoking group also explained, “… There is compelling evidence that tobacco companies not only advertise disproportionately in communities with large African American populations, they also create advertising specifically targeted to these communities. Cigarette ads highly prevalent in African American communities and publications are often characterized by slogans, relevant and specific messages, or images that have a great appeal among those in the Black community, or that depict African Americans in an appealing light. Contrary to how Blacks are typically portrayed in the media, cigarette ads portray images of African Americans who are happy, confident, successful and wealthy, in love, attractive, strong and independent.”

The tobacco industry was among the first to make inroads into the Black community by contributing to Black causes and developing close personal relationships with Black leaders.

For example, A. Shaunise Washington, president and executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, was vice president for Government Affairs, Policy and Outreach for Altria. Prior to joining Altria, she was director of Washington Relations for Philip Morris. In addition to serving on the CBC Foundation’s Corporate Advisory Council, Washington was chairwoman of the CBC Foundation Board of Directors from March 2012 to February 2013.

“The health of the African American community has suffered disproportionately from the advertising campaigns of the tobacco companies, and Black owned media has been demonstrated to be the best way to engage the African American community. Yet, now that the tobacco companies are being required to educate the public about the harm that tobacco products have caused, the companies and the DOJ have no plan to direct any educational advertising to our communities,” Jim Winston, executive director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, told Target Market News.

Both Winston and Campbell said they plan to contact the Justice Department and ask it to direct tobacco companies to include Black-owned print and broadcast media in their public education buys. If that fails, Campbell said, NNPA will take stronger action.

He said, “If our newspapers aren’t good enough to advertise in, their products – including the non-tobacco ones – aren’t good enough for us to consume.”