Tobacco companies are known for targeting specific groups of people, which is obviously not okay. The LGBTQ community, African-Americans, and people of lower socio-economic means are often targets of their ads. According to Truth Initiative, in partnership with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the smoking rate is higher than the national average for these groups. “Tobacco companies often target their advertising campaigns toward low-income neighborhoods and communities, and researchers have found a higher density of tobacco retailers in low-income neighborhoods,” Truth said in a statement.
Doctors and therapist have chimed in on the issue. “If they are focusing on a population who is currently feeling insecure and anxious about their safety given the scary political climate, they are capitalizing on their fear in more than one way. These are the populations who feel more marginalized and are more likely to feel relief from cigarettes and e-cigarettes, which are a huge thing for teen girls these days,” says psychotherapist Emily Roberts.
She continues, “When we feel afraid or scared our brains become wired to seek out pleasure and safety. Most of the teens I’ve been talking to in the past few months have been struggling to hold it together due to the new administration. Women and the LGBTQ community especially have higher anxiety levels, [because they] have been traumatized and/or feel a constant urge to be connected to the news. Why? Because their brains are signaling that they are not safe.”
According to Teen Vogue, LGBTQ young adults ages 18 to 24, are almost twice as likely to smoke as their straight and cisgender peers. There was even a marketing initiative, Project SCUM (Sub-Culture Urban Marketing), created in the mid-1990s to target LGBTQ and homeless populations. Also, the tobacco industry has developed relationships with homeless shelters and different groups to gain positive media coverage and political support. They even funded research to show that persons with mental illness use nicotine to self-medicate. That’s insanity.
For many people, smoking is seen as a viable coping mechanism or a way to self medicate to relieve anxiety and stress. The stigma of seeking help prevents people from getting care, and many people in these groups don’t have access to mental health services.
Check out the Truth Initiative to see how you can fight back against tobacco companies.