The History Of Big Tobacco’s Exploitation of Black Consumers

advertisement for menthol cigarettes
Adé Hennis
April 4, 2024

The stench of cigarettes can be recognized from anywhere, but the only thing that smells worse is the BS tobacco has tried to sell us for many decades.

After a 1953 survey showed that 5% of Black Americans preferred Kool cigarettes over other brands, Kool capitalized off that preference. They targeted the Black population for their products. That’s not so unusual, but when Kool’s strategy paid off, a war began.

Known as the Menthol Wars, major tobacco companies prioritized their marketing campaigns of menthol cigarettes towards Black consumers, and we played a pivotal role in growing the menthol market nearly 50 percent from 1956 to 1971.

The marketing tactics these companies used were as disgusting as the smell of old cigarettes.

Recruiting civil rights activists such as Al Sharpton, holding festivals and concerts, and even purposefully selling cigarettes at discounted prices in predominantly Black neighborhoods were all ways that these companies fed us lies that cigarettes are cool. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Around 324,000 to 654,000 Black deaths could have been avoided over the course of 40 years if it wasn’t for cigarettes. Tobacco companies will do anything for the Black dollar, even if it means killing us. Pay attention and spend wisely.

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack is a nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:

  • We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK NEWS & HISTORY STORIES every year.
  • We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
  • We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.

And as a nonprofit, we rely on small donations from subscribers like you.

With as little as $5 a month, you can help PushBlack raise up Black voices. It only takes a minute, so will you please ?

Share This Article: