Nov. 16 2005
Washington, DC — Leaders in the public health community are denouncing new advertising and marketing tactics by the tobacco industry that are aimed at the Latino community, especially Latino youth. Public health groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco, are demanding that the tobacco companies stop targeting the Latino community and calling on states to increase funding for tobacco prevention programs.
In recent months, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has launched an elaborate, expensive new marketing campaign for Kool cigarettes that has included ads in publications popular with Latino youth, including Latina and Cosmopolitan en Español. The ad campaign, which includes an eight-page insert in some magazines, features multicultural images and slogans intended to appeal to the aspirations of ethnic minorities, including "It's about old world class and new world style" and "It's about pursuing your ambitions and staying connected to your roots" (the Kool ads can be viewed at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/ethnic).
In addition to magazine ads, the new Kool campaign featured concerts in 14 cities around the country with popular musical artists well known in the Latino community. Aggressive tobacco industry marketing has targeted convenience stores in Miami and other cities with large Spanish-speaking populations with saturation advertising in both English and Spanish.
The new Kool advertising campaign is not the first time the tobacco companies have targeted the Latino community. In 1999-2000, Philip Morris ran a magazine ad campaign for Virginia Slims cigarettes that used the slogan "Find Your Voice" and featured Latinas and other ethnic women. The campaign suggested that independence and allure could be found by smoking (the "Find Your Voice" ads can be viewed at www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/ethnic - please scroll down to see these ads). Philip Morris dropped the "Find Your Voice" slogan after it was criticized for targeting ethnic women and girls and for being offensive to smokers with throat cancer.
As smoking rates decline in the United States, public health leaders point out that the tobacco companies are targeting new markets to maintain their profits, and the Latino market is an inviting target because Latinos currently smoke at lower rates than the population as a whole. Currently, 15 percent of Hispanic adults in the U.S. smoke, compared to 20.9 percent of the entire population. In 2004, 20.5 percent of Hispanic high school students nationwide smoked, compared to the overall high school smoking rate of 21.7 percent. Health experts said the tobacco marketing is having an impact, as smoking rates among Hispanic high school students increased from 19.8 percent in 2002 to 20.5 percent in 2004, while overall smoking rates declined.
"The tobacco companies are aggressively going after the Latino market, especially Latino youth, so the public health community is speaking out now to stop them," said Patricia Sosa, Vice President for Constituency Relations at the Campaign or Tobacco-Free Kids. "It is outrageous that the tobacco companies are exploiting the aspirations, culture and images of the Latino community to market deadly and addictive tobacco products to our children."
Despite promising in the 1998 state tobacco settlement to stop marketing to kids, the tobacco companies have actually increased their cigarette marketing by 125 percent since 1998 to a record $15.1 billion a year nationwide, or $41.5 million a day, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
In contrast, all the states combined are scheduled to spend just $551 million this year on tobacco prevention programs. That means the tobacco companies spend more than 27 times as much to market cigarettes as the states spend to keep kids from smoking. Currently, only four states - Maine, Colorado, Mississippi and Delaware - fund tobacco prevention programs at the minimum amounts recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These programs include anti-tobacco advertising, school and community education programs, and enforcement of laws against tobacco sales to minors.
"The tobacco companies are spending more than ever before to go after our children, including Latino children. That is why it is so important that we fight back with strong programs to protect our children," said Guillermo Brito, executive director of the National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco Prevention.
Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation more than $180 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. Tobacco kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. Nearly 90 percent of all smokers start as teens or younger. Every day in the U.S., about 4,000 kids try their first cigarette and another 1,500 kids become regular smokers.