Big Tobacco and Minorities: Mexican American Statistics

Big Tobacco entices minority groups through advertising methods called targeted marketing. These targeted efforts are meant to appeal to specific racial groups, in an attempt to manipulate their perception of smoking.

hands breaking cigarette in half

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the developed world, leading to more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41,000 of these deaths are due to second-hand smoke.

One in four Americans smoke cigarettes or use some other form of tobacco product, but not all ethnic groups are equally yoked. Tobacco companies are known to target minority groups in their ad campaigns, and this has become more prevalent in recent years.  Greater numbers of Mexican Americans are specifically being targeted in ads, as the number of immigrants from Mexico into the US continues to climb, specifically, as more immigrants become citizens and start populating certain areas or neighborhoods.

How Many Mexican Americans Smoke?

According to recent findings by the CDC, Mexican Americans have among the lowest prevalence of smokers in the US, with just over 12% using tobacco products. The only ethnic group listed that was below these levels were Asian Americans, who had just above 10%. This group is the lowest among not only Americans in general, but also of all Hispanic Americans, whose overall smoking rates are closer to 20%.

How Tobacco Companies are Targeting Minorities

Tobacco companies are well known to target minority groups for specific products and promotions. They spend much of their advertising dollars on point of sale marketing, meaning the pricing and packaging of their products do much of the sales. While they are hesitant to admit to targeting any certain racial group specifically, it is obvious by their packaging that they do tailor some products specifically for certain audiences. There is even a name for their tactics in getting more minorities to light up: The Menthol Wars. Recent cigarette packages for menthol cigarettes featured depictions of people in several minority groups, and it was reported to use lingo that would appeal to minority buyers.

Pricing incentives are also commonly used to lure in minorities. In lower income areas, pricing specials are often offered in order to entice more buyers. These are often in areas where minorities are the most prevalent groups in the population (although not always). The lower income public of any racial denomination in general are more likely to smoke, so this means tobacco companies are also targeting those who really cannot afford to buy their products in the first place. As more Mexican Americans enter these neighborhoods, they are also targeted more specifically, with Mexican American people being showcased on cigarette packages and other promotional materials.

Combating the Marketing Dilemma

Education is the key to curtailing the tobacco industry’s attempts at targeting minority populations. More federal or state regulations against such targeted marketing would also help the problem. The best way citizens can take action, however, is to avoid buying Big Tobacco’s products. Those who smoke may find it difficult to quit, but it is highly possible with numerous stop-smoking aids available.

Published: March 8, 2015


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