There are a lot of different ways that Big Tobacco tries to keep your attention. But the amount of exposure you have to their products has a lot to do with where and how you live -- and not everyone is getting the same amount of “love” from Big Tobacco.
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For decades, Big Tobacco targeted some of the most vulnerable Americans -- those in low-income communities who are struggling to make ends meet.
Today, lower-income Americans smoke at staggeringly higher rates than people more well off. While only 15% of American adults as a whole still smoke, 72% of remaining smokers come from lower income communities.
“So, what does Big Tobacco have to do with these numbers?! Isn’t smoking a choice?” we hear you saying, plotting your next comment on one of our Facebook posts.
For years, Big Tobacco has done things that could make the choice to smoke an easy one -- particularly for lower-income communities. They spend 80% of their yearly marketing budget -- which comes out to around 7 BILLION dollars -- discounting cigarettes. They’re dropping billions so that people can buy deadly, addictive products cheaper.
“That’s… nice of them? I think…” we feel you contemplating.
Hmmm. Was it also nice of them to grow genetically engineered tobacco plants that would produce 2x the natural level of nicotine? Making it easier to get and stay addicted to a harmful, expensive, deadly product?
Not so nice. As their industry documents (which are fully public, btw) reveal, in the past they profiled low-income consumers as having “low self esteem,” “nothing to look forward to,” and “an overall pessimistic outlook on life.” They even identified people with a sense of “powerlessness” as opportunities to capitalize on. Their documents specifically outline their recognition of the “decline of smoking as an upscale and mainstream behavior,” and their transition to targeting “a population that is increasingly blue collar, ethnic, and less educated.”
So… that’s just part of what Big Tobacco has to do with those numbers.
But we know and believe that a healthy life is not a privilege for the rich, or an “upscale and mainstream behavior.” Everyone has the right to a life free from deadly, addictive products -- no matter what community you’re a part of.
Let’s take the power back from Big Tobacco and spread the truth about how they’ve targeted vulnerable Americans. Our lives are worth more than their labels and profiles. We deserve better.