Critics Blame Ads, Cut Rates for More Smoking Among Women, Blacks With PM-Smoking-Box
NEW YORK (AP) _ Smoking is up among blacks and women despite louder-than-ever warnings about the dangers, and critics of the tobacco industry blame cut-rate prices and aggressive advertising.
″The tobacco industry has targeted these two groups,″ said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. ″They’re recruiting people to kill, preying on groups that often don’t feel empowered.″
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that a steady, 25-year decline in smoking has leveled off. The agency said 46.3 million adults, or 25.7 percent, smoked in 1991. In 1990, 25.5 percent smoked, the lowest rate since tracking began in 1955.
But the CDC said more blacks - 29.2 percent vs. 26.2 percent in 1990 - and more women - 23.5 percent vs. 22.8 percent - are lighting up.
The CDC’s Dr. Michael Eriksen said people who would otherwise have quit because of the price are shifting to cheaper brands. Brands costing as little as $1 a pack now make up about 30 percent of the $44 billion-a-year industry.
And while $2-a-pack taxes are being proposed in Washington, cigarette companies are offering rebates on cartons or selling 10-packs at half-price.
Tobacco industry critics also blame billboards in inner cities, sponsorship of cultural events such as the Kool Jazz Festival and the Benson & Hedges Blues Festival, and ads that depict thin, sexy, sophisticated-looking women.
″Marketing appeals to a person’s sense of want. And the two top issues for young women are weight control and stress reduction,″ said Regina Penna- Currie of the group Women and Girls Against Tobacco.
″The tobacco industry can change its identity to anything it wants. They’re one thing in an Afro-American community and another thing in the Latino community. That’s what they’re good at, sponsoring a cultural event or a wet T-shirt contest,″ said Eric Solberg, executive director of anti-smoking group Doctors Ought to Care.
The tobacco industry denied any wrongdoing, saying it reaches smokers in rich suburbs with magazine ads as readily as it reaches inner-city blacks with billboards. The industry spends nearly $4 billion a year on advertising.
″All advertising is targeted to its potential customer. That’s Marketing 101,″ said Thomas Lauria, spokesman for the Tobacco Institute. ″I don’t think a billboard ever turned a nonsmoker into a smoker.″
Dr. Ronald Davis, chief medical officer for the Michigan Department of Public Health and former head of the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health, said 434,000 deaths each year are related to smoking - more than the combined deaths from alcohol, heroin, cocaine, suicide, homicide, car accidents, fires and AIDS.
Among the groups in which smoking increased, more women die each year from lung cancer than breast cancer, and blacks have the highest incidence of lung cancer of any group, according to government figures.
According to the CDC report, other prevalent smokers include those ages 25 to 44, those living in poverty, those with less than a high school education, and Eskimos and Indians.
Smoking declined among men and is lowest among those over 74 and people with college degrees.