June 25, 2011
By Althea Fung, National Journal
Tobacco companies advertise more and have lowered the price of menthol cigarettes in California stores near high schools with large African American student populations, according to a new report from the Stanford School of Medicine.
An overwhelming majority – 86 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute – of African American smokers prefer the minty flavor of menthol cigarettes. Tobacco companies are capitalizing on this, the Stanford team said.
“The tobacco companies went out of their way to argue to the Food & Drug Administration that they don’t use racial targeting,” Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in a statement. “This evidence is not consistent with those claims.”
Henrikson’s team randomly selected convenience stores, small markets and places selling cigarettes within easy walking distance of 91 schools in 2006.
In what they call “predatory” marketing patterns geared at young blacks, the researchers found the proportion of menthol cigarette advertisements increased by 5.9 percentage points as the proportion of black students increased by 10 percentage points. Additionally the odds of an advertised discount on Newport cigarettes – the leading brand of menthol cigarettes – were 1.5 times greater.