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Nicotine Tob Res. 2004 Feb;6 Suppl 1:S55-65.

The African Americanization of menthol cigarette use in the United States.

Author information

  • 1Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP), University of California Office of the President, Oakland, CA 94612-3550, USA. phillip.gardiner@ucop.edu

Abstract

Today, over 70% of African American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, compared with 30% of White smokers. This unique social phenomenon was principally occasioned by the tobacco industry's masterful manipulation of the burgeoning Black, urban, segregated, consumer market in the 1960s. Through the use of television and other advertising media, coupled with culturally tailored images and messages, the tobacco industry "African Americanized" menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry successfully positioned mentholated products, especially Kool, as young, hip, new, and healthy. During the time that menthols were gaining a large market share in the African American community, the tobacco industry donated funds to African American organizations hoping to blunt the attack on their products. Many of the findings in this article are drawn from the tobacco industry documents disclosed following the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998. After a short review of the origins and growth of menthols, this article examines some key social factors that, when considered together, led to disproportionate use of mentholated cigarettes by African Americans compared with other Americans. Unfortunately, the long-term impact of the industry's practice in this community may be partly responsible for the disproportionately high tobacco-related disease and mortality among African Americans generally and African American males particularly.

PMID:
14982709
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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