"We don't smoke that s***. We just sell it. We let the poor, the black, and the stupid smoke it for us."
This was a quote by a tobacco company executive when a reporter asked why he didn't smoke the products that they sell.
Have you ever been in a community that was comprised of lower income families and paid attention to the amount of tobacco retailers in the area? You might be surprise to know that tobacco companies target low-income neighborhoods intentionally. It is common to see more density of tobacco retailers in these areas, in addition to a higher distribution of discount codes, direct-mail coupons, development of brands that appeal to these individuals specifically, and point-of-sale discounts, which are "deals" that you see where the products are purchases. It is for these reasons that 74% of all smokers come from low-income communities.
The tobacco industry also markets to minority populations by creating ads that specifically target those individuals, and we see this in the consistency of purchases throughout these populations. African Americans are 11 times more likely to start smoking than white Americans, Native American smoking rates are 7% higher than white Americans, and lung cancer rates are 18% higher among Asian Americans compared to white Americans.
Tobacco companies view individuals of low socio-economic status and of minority populations as the perfect target market for their product. Why? They see any human struggle as an opportunity to capitalize on addiction; and because these individuals commonly struggle financially, Big Tobacco markets directly to them for their own financial gain.
So what can we do?
1. Write to and/or call your state legislatures about the importance of raising the cigarette tax (Indiana's tax rate is significantly below the national average).
2. Get involved with your local tobacco prevention coalition by contacting your Tobacco Prevention Coordinator.
3. If you are a tobacco user, call 1-800-QUITNOW or visit the Indiana Tobacco Quitline to end your support of these establishments and experience freedom from addiction.
Multiple Authors including coalition staff, board members, and coalition members contribute to this page.