Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. For decades, African Americans, low-income neighborhoods, LGBTQ communities and those with mental illness have been disproportionately affected by tobacco use—a result of profiling by the tobacco industry.
During tonight's 59th annual GRAMMY Awards, a new truth campaign called #STOPPROFILING will shine a light on how the tobacco industry deliberately singles out communities that already face adversity and inequality with aggressive marketing tactics that equal profiling. The campaign features television host and comedic actress, Amanda Seales, known for her ability to take serious topics and make them resonate with a youth audience. Launching with two TV ads, the campaign will also include more than 10 pieces of custom content across digital and TV platforms.
The #STOPPROFILING campaign underscores that tobacco use is more than a public health issue, it's a social justice issue. The fact-based truth campaign debuting tonight highlights two of these injustices specifically aimed at African American and low income neighborhoods as detailed below:
In major cities like D.C., there are up to ten times more tobacco advertisements in black neighborhoods than other neighborhoods.*1 2 3
A recent study found that low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have tobacco retailers near schools than other neighborhoods.4 The tobacco industry even went to the Supreme Court to ensure they could continue to sell their products near schools.5
"The tobacco industry's profiling marketing model means that where you live, who you love, your ethnicity, mental health, and income influence whether you smoke," said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, the national public health organization that directs and funds the truth campaign. "Tobacco is still the number one cause of preventable death and we're sending a loud and clear message to the tobacco industry that what they do is not target marketing. It's profiling and it has to stop."
This isn't the first time that truth has called attention to the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. In 2008 and 2013, truth exposed "Project SCUM: Sub-Culture Urban Marketing," a 1996 tobacco company marketing campaign targeting LGBT and homeless people.
Though teen smoking of traditional cigarettes reached an all-time low of 6 percent in 2016, #STOPPROFILING shows that it's no coincidence that prevalence rates among certain communities are higher:
The marketing and promotion of menthol cigarettes have been targeted heavily toward African Americans.6 More than 88 percent of African American smokers aged 12 years and older prefer menthol cigarettes.6 Each year, approximately 47,000 African Americans die from smoking-related disease with African Americans more likely to die from them than whites.7
LGBTQ young adults, 18-24, are nearly two times as likely to smoke as their straight peers.8 9
Individuals with mental illness account for up to 46 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States.10
People living below the poverty level in the U.S. are nearly twice as likely to smoke, compared to those at or above the poverty level.11
"Today's teens are a generation with an unyielding commitment to diversity, inclusivity and equality," said Koval. "It's well documented that teens are passionate about social justice issues. By arming them with the facts about tobacco industry profiling tactics, we are empowering them to be the generation to end tobacco in every community nationwide."
Youth can call out tobacco industry profiling as it happens by tagging @truthorange and #STOPPROFILING. truth is also mobilizing youth nationwide via thetruth.com
#STOPPROFILING is the latest extension of truth's Finish It campaign, which began in 2014. As part of the movement, millions of teens have taken steps to make their generation the one that ends smoking for good by taking action both nationally and locally through social media and on-the-ground community efforts.CREATIVE CREDITS:
The Finish It campaign and new #STOPPROFILING ads were created by truth's advertising agency of record 72andSunny. Media planning and buying is handled by Assembly, truth's media agency of record. -ADVERTISEMENT-