Minorities And Smoking Of Mice and Menthol The Targeting of African Americans by the Tobacco Industry
1990 05 28 Sports Illus Salem Ad The Box

“The Box”

Salem advertisement
Sports Illustrated, page 70
May 28, 1990

1992 01 13 Jet Salem Ad

“Get the Wrap”

Salem advertisement
January 13, 1992

1991 Salem Neon Sign 1

Salem storefront sign, New York City

Photograph by Alan Blum, MD
Circa 1991

1988 03 Ebony Newport Ad Roller Coaster 1

“After all, if smoking isn’t a pleasure, why bother?”

Newport advertisement
Ebony, page 93
March 1988

“Liberation cigarettes”

Video clip from DOC film “Medicine vs. Madison Avenue,” in which Deloyd Parker, director of the SHAPE (Self-Help for African People through Education) Community Center in Houston, Texas, discusses the tobacco industry’s attempts to attract minority communities by using “liberation colors” (red, black, and green) in their cigarette ads and product packaging

Salem video van

Video clip of DOC (Doctors Ought to Care) film footage

“Wrappers” and Liberation Colors

Packaging for cigarette brands most favored by African Americans became the focus of several advertising campaigns during the 1970s-2000s. Examples included striking graphics on packs of R. J. Reynolds’ Salem (“The Box”) and Philip Morris’ Benson & Hedges. In the early 1990s, as rap music’s popularity among African-American adolescents rose, a metallic-foil outer wrapping for Salem, which the company named “The Wrap,” was featured in a major advertising campaign. Salem video vans roamed minority neighborhoods, showing rap videos and giving out free cigarettes. Brown & Williamson’s “Kool Mixx” hip hop campaigns dominated the market in the 2000s. Newport’s “Alive with Pleasure” advertising slogan in advertisements featuring vibrant 20-somethings remained essentially unchanged in the 1990s and 2000s.

Deloyd Parker, executive director of SHAPE (Self-Help for African People through Education) Community Center in Houston, Texas, suggested that the redesign of the Salem brand to include the colors of the flag of African unity—red, black, and green—was a cynical attempt by R. J. Reynolds to create a “liberation cigarette.”

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