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FDA Hears from AARC, Others, on Tobacco Marketing

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July 28, 2010

The marketing and promotion of tobacco products to youth and racial and ethnic minorities is a key concern of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. When the center requested input to help inform its decision-making process, the AARC joined 17 other leading organizations in signing on to a letter full of great information and advice.

The letter details youth and minority smoking rates and health consequences, along with the history of tobacco advertising and promotion to youth and racial and ethnic minority populations. It also provides an action plan for enforcement of regulations.

Here are just a few of the interesting statistics cited in the letter:

  • The incidence of lung cancer among black men is 22% higher than among white men, and black male mortality rates from lung cancer are 29% higher than white male rates.
  • 80% of smokers begin before the age of 18 and 90% before the age of 20.
  • Exposure to tobacco marketing more than doubles the odds that children under 18 will become tobacco users.
  • Research demonstrates that if a young person can identify a favorite cigarette brand or campaign, they are 50% more likely to initiate smoking.
  • Studies in cities from Boston, MA, to Oklahoma County, OK, to Los Angeles, CA, have found higher tobacco advertising density in minority communities than in mostly white communities.
  • Promotional offers on cigarettes are used by all categories of smokers—especially young adults, women, and African Americans—with 35% of smokers using promotional offers every time they saw one.
  • 73.4% of white Americans and 82% of African Americans believe that cigarette advertising increases the chance that a child will start smoking.
  • Rigorous anti-tobacco advertising and public education can have a protective effect against tobacco industry marketing.

The letter goes on to urge the FDA to “implement creative enforcement strategies focused on filling the remaining gaps not addressed by current regulations.” Specifically, the 18 organizations want the FDA to target tobacco packaging, online advertising and social media, licensing and monitoring, counter-advertising, and surveillance and evaluation. 

The letter concludes with a section on the impact menthol in cigarettes has on youth and racial and ethnic minorities, noting “the tobacco industry’s own documents confirm that menthol cigarettes are a good starter product” and that “mentholated brands are marketed disproportionately in low-income, urban communities.”

You can read the entire letter. Read an appendix with examples of tobacco ads and marketing campaigns aimed at youth and racial and ethnic minorities.