The tobacco industry spent $10 billion on marketing in 2008, according to the FTC, and a good part of the portion being spent in California was targeted at low-income and African-American youth, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
If you’re an African-American high schooler in the Golden State, you may have noticed the advertising for menthol cigarettes that aren’t far from the school. Researchers that are funded by the state of California found that such ads were more prominently displayed when they were in proximity to a school that served the African-American community, the Union-Tribune adds.
"There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem," said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, according to the paper. "The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit."
Henriksen’s study paid particular attention to the marketing of Marlboro and Newport, two brands that are popular with younger audiences, the Union-Tribune reports. She also notes that many schools in California are located near retailers that sell cigarettes.
"We’re really talking about a horrendous burden on low-income and communities of color, where tobacco retailers are more highly concentrated," Henriksen commented. "The kinds of stores in those communities contain more ads for cigarettes, and they also have more underage sales violations."
A spokesman for the Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris, told the paper that the company is "committed to responsibly marketing its cigarettes to adult smokers."
California isn't the only area where Big Tobacco is accused of shady marketing — New York City, notably, has been on a huge anti-smoking drive under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while New York State is also warning kids about tobacco marketing tactics in its current campaign, at top.