Groups Protest Black Cigarette Campaign
Jan. 15, 1990
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Black leaders and health organizations plan to protest the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s launch here of a new menthol cigarette targeted at blacks. The company says it's a victim of discrimination.
Reynolds plans to introduce Uptown cigarettes in Philadelphia on Feb. 5 as a test before marketing the brand nationally.
''They're taking their own brand of death and trying to market it to the black community,'' said Pastor Jesse Brown of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church and president of the Committee to Prevent Cancer Among Blacks.
But Reynolds spokeswoman Maura Payne said the company was merely trying to compete with other existing brands.
''There seems to be a bit of bigotry here,'' Payne said. ''People are arguing that black consumers don't have a right to buy a product for which they have expressed a desire. We believe black smokers have a right to choose between Newport, Salem, Kools and Uptown.''
Representatives from 30 groups including the American Cancer Society, local black religious groups and the city Health Department, met Thursday and will meet again soon to plan protest strategies, said Robert Robinson, president of the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer in Philadelphia.
''I'm very opposed to the idea of a cigarette being developed and targeted to the African-American community,'' Robinson said. ''The African-American community is already suffering the highest rate of cancer in the country.''
Uptown is being marketed partly because Reynolds' other menthol cigarette - Salem - has declined in popularity, Ms. Payne said. About 62 percent of all black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, she said, but studies showed Salem had too much menthol for many black smokers.
Reynolds chose Philadelphia as a test market because of its sizable black population, Ms. Payne said.
According to the U.S. Office of Smoking and Health, 34 percent of blacks and 29 percent of whites smoked cigarettes in 1985, the latest figures available.