‘Hoodwraps’ Don’t Belong in the Neighborhood

October 21, 2011


A California-based company is promoting flavored cigars called 'Hoodwraps' to inner-city youth, using names such as 'Da Bomb Blueberry' and 'Swag Berry,' and even handing out free samples in downtown Indianapolis.

Trendsettah USA is marketing the cigars with 'street teams' — inner-city youth recruited to give out the samples. The slogan for Hoodwraps: 'So Hood. So Good.' The aggressive promotion has angered local tobacco-control advocates, who note that urban youth in Indiana are more likely to begin smoking at an earlier age than the national average.

'It's dirty. I think it's a dirty thing to do,' one resident told television station RTV6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis. 'Why would they be on the streets handing out cigars? I’m very shocked.'

The marketing campaign by Trendsettah USA is another example of how the tobacco industry targets African-Americans, particularly youth, to entice them to use tobacco and hook them on certain brands.

For decades, menthol cigarettes have been marketed aggressively to African Americans and it's had a clear impact: About 75 percent of African-American smokers smoke menthol brands, compared with only 23 percent of white smokers. In March, a science advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration concluded that menthol cigarettes increase the number of children and African Americans who smoke, and found that menthol cigarettes are 'disproportionately marketed' to younger smokers and African Americans.

In a groundbreaking case last year, a Massachusetts jury ordered Lorillard Inc., maker of Newport, to pay more than $150 million in damages for the death of a Boston woman, who was lured as a child into a lifelong cigarette addiction. In videotaped testimony taken a few weeks before she died of lung cancer, Marie Evans recounted how the tobacco company handed out free samples to children as young as 9 in the housing project where she lived. Evans said she at first traded the cigarettes for candy before she started smoking by age 13.

Trendsettah USA is using similar tactics to hook another generation on a deadly product, and plans to move on soon to New York and Florida.

This is a trend that must be stopped.