Study finds black youth in California targeted by tobacco marketing

Academic researchers, funded by California’s Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, found a greater number of menthol cigarette advertising at retailers near high schools with a high African American student population.

Lisa Henriksen, Senior Research Engineer at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, studies environmental influences on adolescent tobacco use, particularly with tobacco marketing in smoking initiation and maintenance. She presented the findings at a legislative hearing in Sacramento in late April 2012.

The research found as the percentage of black students increased at a California high school, so did the existence of both menthol-related advertising and Newport brand promotions at retailers near the schools. The study looked at all cigarette advertising, but specifically observed promotions and price discounts for Marlboro and Newport, two of the most popular brands with underage smokers.

Henriksen’s study of cigarette marketing also found African American teens were better able to recognize a Newport advertisement than teens of other races. And in analyzing California’s K–12 schools, the research observed 24% of school campuses had tobacco retailers within 600 feet, and 38% of schools were within 1,000 feet of a store where cigarettes were sold. Stores near high schools, on average, featured 25 cigarette ads.

Additionally, Robert Lipton from the University of Michigan presented research showing that in the Los Angeles area, dense, poor, and minority communities had greater rates of underage tobacco sales.

California has the second-lowest smoking rate in the country at about 12%. But according to the California Department of Public Health, tobacco use among African Americans in the state is between 3%–6%, higher than the statewide average.

The Federal Trade Commission’s most recent California statistics show the tobacco industry spent over $10 billion on marketing in 2008.

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