How Tobacco Companies Led A Devastating 50-Year Infiltration Into Black Communities

A college student’s film project reveals the targeted effort to push menthols onto the black populace.

 

Lincoln Mondy’s asthma is probably the only reason why he’s never smoked a cigarette.

Doctors warned his parents about the dangerous effects their smoking habit could have on their son, but it was almost impossible to stop because in Farmersville, Texas, “tobacco is everything,” according to Mondy. At the age of 14, Mondy took matters into his own hands when he made a PowerPoint presentation for his mom, whom he lived with, which warned her about tobacco’s adverse effects. With the support of Mondy and other family members, his mother eventually quit smoking by the time he was 15. But getting his father to quit was a different beast to tackle.

My black family all smoked menthol,” Mondy, who is biracial, told The Huffington Post about a pattern he noticed on his paternal family’s side. “Like why do they smoke menthol but my white side dips and smokes cigarettes that aren’t menthol?”

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Menthol is a flavoring additive that makes it easier to inhale smoke which makes it more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes, according to the Center for Disease Control. More than 70 percent of black smokers prefer menthol, as shown in the infographics (above and below) by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. After learning that black people are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than whites, Mondy realized his father’s affinity for menthol wasn’t a coincidence.

The now 22-year-old senior at George Washington University, started to research the campaigns big tobacco companies used to target black communities for his film project,“Black Lives/Black Lungs.” The film was published in March in conjunction with Truth Initiative, and he found some very disturbing facts.

Check out “Black Lives/Black Lungs” in the video below and keep scrolling to continue the story.

Mondy searched for keywords within the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents database like “ethnic,” “ghetto,” “lower income” and “negro.” He found countless documents that outlined tobacco companies’ strategies in its campaigns which were aimed specifically at black people. He said the latter three search terms yielded results that surprised him, but it was a document from Lorlliard Tobacco that said “negroes” smoke menthol to “mask a real/mythical odor,” which he said disturbed him the most.

They started really seeing [that] saying menthols would make people think ‘fresh breath,’” Mondy said of his findings. “So in like the ‘60s they started targeting on that. They really started going really hard on ‘hey, smoke this, it’s healthier, fresh breath, minty,’ those kind of buzz words that would make people feel like its healthier than a regular cigarette.”

In addition to the language used in advertisements, these tobacco companies would buy a disproportionate amount of ad space in black publications like Ebony, Jet and Essence in comparison to mainstream magazines like Life, Vanity Fair and Elle. In 1962, Ebony carried twice as many cigarette ad pages as Life. These ads showed black men and women with cool and even empowering demeanors as they held a cigarette.

Many tobacco companies were ordered in 2014 by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler to run corrective statements in many publications about their overall misleading messages about the negative health effects of smoking in ads, but black media outlets were completely ignored.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Mondy also found that businessmen from tobaccos companies would take “ethnic field trips” to neighborhoods highly populated with black people in the ‘60s where they would stay for hours and give away menthol cigarettes.

“You’re getting them hooked for free,” Mondy said of the these “disturbing” marketing tactics by the tobacco companies. “So they’d go and take really impressive research to kind of pinpoint the culture and see what people like, what people don’t like. And then, maybe like three months later, after that one ethnic field trip, there’d be an ad targeted specifically to that population.”

Phillip Gardiner, public health activist and co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, wrote in his 2002 study “The African Americanization of menthol cigarette use in the United States” — which Mondy refers to often in his research — that tobacco companies saw the distinct traits of the black community, philanthropy included, and adjusted their marketing accordingly to build the community’s trust:

“Because the industry was based in the South, and the majority of black people lived and worked in the South, even as many migrated to urban centers, it was to the advantage of the tobacco industry to develop a strategic relationship with the African-American community. Moreover, the tobacco industry was one of the first major corporate employers to hire and promote African-Americans, not just in the processing of tobacco but also as executives (Gardiner, 2001; Robinson & Sutton, 1994).”

Mondy called the tobacco industry’s infiltration into the black community “strategic.” Tobacco companies like Altria have donated millions of dollars to black institutions — including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, historically black colleges and universities, and the NAACP — over the years. In 2014, Altria donated one million dollars to the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture which opens this year. Mondy said these institutions would risk vital funding which could ultimately help them to have a positive impact on the black community if they spoke up against the tobacco companies.

They have no choice,” he told HuffPost. “In the ‘70s when the NAACP needed funding for meetings, the tobacco industry was there, no one else was there. The tobacco industry was there to give money to them so they couldn’t say smoking is bad.”

Today, menthol is the only tobacco additive that is not banned, despite a 2009 law which banned other flavor additives like cherry and bubblegum. Yet, as shown in the graphic below, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium found that if menthol was banned that 44.5 percent of black smokers would quit smoking tobacco.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Mondy said he believes the reason it hasn’t been banned is due to political reasons — Lorillard, the company which produces Newports, has donated to more than half of the black democrats in Congress compared to just under 3 percent of non-black Democrats in 2014.

In 2015, Lorillard, whose sales depended on menthols for roughly 85 percent of sales the year prior, merged with Reynolds American Inc. — the company that owns R.J, Reynolds Tobacco Company. Jacob McConnico, a spokesperson for the R.J, Reynolds Tobacco Company, provided a statement to HuffPost in regards to claims about marketing practices that specifically targeted the black community in the past few decades and today:

“I am not able to provide any insight to claims related to alleged marketing activities of up to 50 years ago. I can tell you, as it relates to our marketing today, our marketing efforts are designed to reach a wide and diverse audience of adult tobacco consumers. Those efforts are designed to include elements of interest for all adult smokers, regardless of their ethnicity or gender. Adult African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities have the same ability and right as the rest of the population to evaluate and make informed decisions about whether or not they want to use tobacco or any other consumer product. It would not be appropriate to exclude minority audiences or media from our brand communications.”

Steve Callahan, a representative for Altria Client Services, the company which owns Philip Morris USA brands such as Marlboro, Virginia Slims, among others, also said that he couldn’t speak on marketing campaigns from the past in a statement to HuffPost. He said there has been tighter regulation on tobacco companies due to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement which changed the way brands market tobacco and the 2009 Tobacco Control Act in which the Food and Drug Administration began regulating the manufacture, distribution and marketing of these products.

Also, Callahan said to HuffPost that Philip Morris USA is “committed to marketing our products responsibly by building relationships between our brands and adult smokers while taking steps designed to limit reach to unintended audiences.” He added, “Philip Morris USA markets its menthol cigarette brands using the same marketing approaches it uses for its non-menthol cigarette brands.”

Advocates like Gardiner, however, aren’t convinced that tobacco companies shouldn’t be held accountable.

The bottom line is that African-Americans prefer menthol cigarettes because the tobacco industry pushed these products on and created the demand among this population,” Gardiner wrote in his study. “Did the industry do this on purpose? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes.”

Despite tobacco’s deep impact on the black community, Mondy said he’s using his “Black Lives/Black Lungs” project as a vehicle of hope. With the help of Truth Initiative, he plans on interviewing key players in the fight to ban menthol and turn his findings into a documentary which he intends to premiere this summer. His efforts aren’t to shame smokers because quitting tobacco can be a hard feat, especially, if a person may have smoked his or her entire life. Instead, he said he wants to educate people on the issue.

AFRICAN AMERICAN TOBACCO CONTROL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

Mondy’s approach to informing others has even made his father take quitting more seriously. He said his dad texted him in February to tell him that he had gone 30 days without smoking a cigarette, the longest in Mondy’s lifetime.

“This is like so engorged into our community,” he said. “I think it’s important to equip people with the education and information and so like, I’m not going around saying ‘smoking is bad, stop smoking.’”

Instead, Mondy said he hopes the research he provides will lead people to make an informed decision on whether they want to quit smoking or “keep buying from these companies that benefit from black death.”

Learn more about the tobacco industry’s targeted campaign on the black community with “Black Lives/Black Lungs” and watch the video above.

Source: How Tobacco Companies Led A Devastating 50-Year Infiltration Into Black Communities

Black men increasingly hard to find in medical schools

 

PROFESSION

Black men increasingly hard to find in medical schools

A dwindling share of students pursuing physician careers are African-American men. Experts warn that the trend could exacerbate racial health disparities and doctor shortages.

By KEVIN B. O’REILLY, amednews staff. Posted Feb. 25, 2013.

As a medical student, Frank A. Clark, MD, was one of the few African-American men in his class. It wasn’t that he saw black men being rejected from medical school. The bigger problem was that he didn’t see many on track to get there at all.

“Even during my collegiate career, I was a biology major with a minor in chemistry, and I didn’t see many other African-American males on the premed route,” says Dr. Clark, now a psychiatry resident at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C.

Black men are notable in that their numbers are lagging even as other minorities and women are continuing a long-term trend of gaining greater representation among medical school applicants and students, according to the most recent Assn. of American Medical Colleges report on medical education diversity.

The report said 2.5% of medical school applicants were black men in 2011, a drop from 2.6% in 2002. That compares with 9% and 11% increases in the share of Asian and Hispanic male applicants, respectively, during the same period. A 10% greater share of matriculating students were Asian men in 2011 than in 2002, and Hispanic men made up a 24% larger proportion of new medical students. The share of white male applicants and matriculants was stable.

10% of U.S. men 30 and older are black, but less than 3% of practicing doctors are black men.

Growth in the number of African-American women applying for — and attending — medical school has been comparatively weak as well, with their representation, as a percentage of all applicants and graduates, also in decline. However, their numbers are still enough to create, as they have for some time, the biggest gender gap among all racial or ethnic groups.

Twice as many African-American women as men applied to medical school, and black women accounted for nearly two-thirds of black students who were accepted and eventually matriculated. That disparity translates into graduation rates, with 63% of new black MDs in 2011 being women.

By comparison, the non-Hispanic white gender gap in favor of men is 55%-45%, and while most other racial and ethnic groups skew female, they don’t come near the African-American gender gap. Overall, according to AAMC, the male-female gap in applicants and matriculants in 2011 was 53%-47% favoring men, a near-historic low ratio that has held steady for the past few years.

The AAMC report said the “persistent” problem of black male underrepresentation among medical school applicants speaks to a need for medical schools, which have stepped up minority recruitment efforts in recent years to try to get their student bodies to reflect the American population, “to institute plans and initiatives aimed at strengthening the pipeline.” Efforts include attempts to interest more black male youth in medicine and hiring more faculty members “from racially and ethnically underrepresented groups.”

“We have a major, major problem in this country,” said Marc Nivet, EdD, the AAMC’s chief diversity officer. “There is just simply an enormous amount of indisputable evidence that we’re not intervening as effectively as we’d like as a society to increase the talent pool of African-Americans who are capable of taking advantage of the science curricula available up and down the pipeline.”

Despite a 3% rise in the total number of male African-American medical school graduates during the last decade, the proportion of new doctors who were black men fell from 2.6% in 2002 to 2.4% in 2011. African-Americans account for 13% of the U.S. population, but only 6% of 2011 matriculants were black, as are just 4% of practicing doctors. And while the Census Bureau reports that 10% of U.S. men 30 and older are African-American, less than 3% of practicing doctors are black men, according to American Medical Association data.

Multiple repercussions

The underrepresentation of black men in medicine is problematic for multiple reasons, experts say.

The shortage could worsen access to care in low-income communities, because black medical students are likelier than any other group to have a firm commitment to practicing in underserved areas, with 55% saying they plan to do so. Meanwhile, several studies have found that patients who are treated by physicians with whom they share racial or gender characteristics report greater satisfaction with their care and higher rates of medication compliance.

63% of new black MDs in 2011 were women.

With the U.S. Census Bureau projecting that nonwhites will account for a majority of the American population by 2050, a sputtering pipeline of black male doctors could worsen the physician supply problem. The AAMC projects that by 2025, the country will be short by 130,000 doctors of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“This has huge implications,” said Rahn K. Bailey, MD, president of the National Medical Assn., which promotes the interests of African-American physicians and patients.

“Society does better with balance all the way around,” he said. “And we don’t have balance if we have disproportionately twice as many females as males applying to enter the profession, or twice as many from California as from New York, or twice as many people who want to go into surgery as into pediatrics. We need everybody. We need all hands on deck.”

Disparities begin early

The gap seen among African-American men in medicine does not start when students apply to medical school. About 3% of college graduates are black men, and women account for nearly two-thirds of black students to earn bachelor’s degrees. Nearly three-quarters of African-Americans majoring in biology or biomedical sciences are women, according to 2009 U.S. Dept. of Education data.

Nationally, 52% of male African-Americans earn high school diplomas, compared with 58% of male Hispanics and 78% of male non-Hispanic whites, said a September 2012 report published by the nonprofit Schott Foundation for Public Education. For every black male physician, there are about 50 African-American men incarcerated at the federal, state or local levels, according to 2009 U.S. Justice Dept. data.

Twice as many African-American women as men apply to medical school.

Reaching male African-Americans at younger ages is critical, experts say. Twelve medical and dental schools now take part in the six-week, tuition-free Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, administered by the AAMC and the American Dental Education Assn. The program, launched in 1989, each year offers intensive preparation for dental or medical school, clinical experiences, and academic enrichment in math and science to about 1,000 college freshman and sophomores who are from underrepresented minority groups or low-income families.

Some medical schools are working to encourage math and science among elementary and secondary school students. The Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., works with the local public schools as early as the third grade, offering field trips to Duke health care facilities. Starting in the fifth grade, 25 students from underrepresented minority groups or low-income families are selected from each participating school to join Duke’s BOOST program, which offers extra math and science instruction, overnight field trips and summer workshops. The outreach effort continues with high school students, said Brenda Armstrong, MD, dean of admissions at Duke’s medical school. The school had more black graduates in 2011 — 20 total, 14 women — than all but four other medical schools.

“A lot of this has to do with giving [male African-Americans] the academic tools to work with at an early stage, and you have to reinforce those successes and keep them in the system,” said Dr. Armstrong, a professor of pediatrics.

Affirmative action’s future in doubt

Experts’ concern about the diminishing share of black men entering medicine is accentuated by uncertainty about the future of affirmative action. A case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, could produce a ruling this year that restricts how publicly funded medical schools factor race, ethnicity and gender into admissions decisions. The AMA joined in a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the ability to use race as one part of the admissions process.

The AMA also co-founded the Commission to End Health Care Disparities in 2004 with the National Medical Assn. The commission studies gaps in care and convenes expert panels to provide practice and policy recommendations. In 2002, the AMA launched the Doctors Back to School program, which sends black, Hispanic and other physicians to visit schools to encourage minority students’ interest in medicine.

Dr. Clark, the Columbia, S.C., psychiatry resident, has taken part in the back-to-school program and also made other trips to talk with area elementary and high school students. Role models are key to encouraging more male African-Americans to pursue math, science and medicine, said Dr. Clark, a member of the AMA Minority Affairs Section’s governing council.

“As physicians, we have an obligation to not only serve our community in terms of providing good patient care, but also to be mentors, to reach out to those people who look up to us,” he said. “People do look up to us. We may not be Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. We may not have won championships, but we still have a role in the community to play, and a role that’s vital to the community.”

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 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The last decade reshaped medical school diversity

The proportion of African-American men in medical schools has fallen since 2002, while a rising share of medical students come from Asian and Hispanic backgrounds.

Group 2002 applicants (%) 2011 applicants (%) 2002 matriculants (%) 2011 matriculants (%)
White men 10,483 (31.2%) 13,506 (30.8%) 5,355 (32.5%) 6,252 (32.5%)
White women 8,974 (26.7%) 10,451 (23.8%) 4,619 (28.0%) 4,808 (25.0%)
Asian men 2,965 (8.8%) 4,645 (10.6%) 1,474 (8.9%) 1,968 (10.2%)
Asian women 2,984 (8.9%) 4,296 (9.8%) 1,556 (9.4%) 1,891 (9.8%)
Hispanic men 1,167 (3.5%) 1,655 (3.8%) 549 (3.3%) 790 (4.1%)
Hispanic women 1,274 (3.8%) 1,804 (4.1%) 581 (3.5%) 843 (4.4%)
Black men 874 (2.6%) 1,107 (2.5%) 391 (2.4%) 445 (2.3%)
Black women 1,738 (5.2%) 2,108 (4.8%) 735 (4.5%) 737 (3.8%)
Total 33,625 43,919 16,488 19,230

Note: Individuals who did not mark a race or ethnicity, or who identified as multiracial, foreigners, Native Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders are not included in this chart.

Source: “Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2012,” Assn. of American Medical Colleges, November 2012; “Minorities in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2005,” AAMC

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WEBLINK

“The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males,” Schott Foundation for Public Education, September 2012 (blackboysreport.org/urgency-of-now.pdf)

“Adherence to Cardiovascular Disease Medications: Does Patient-Provider Race/Ethnicity and Language Concordance Matter?,” Journal of General Internal Medicine, November 2010 (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20571929)

“Diversity in Medical Education: Facts & Figures 2012,” Assn. of American Medical Colleges, November 2012, and earlier years (www.aamc.org/initiatives/diversity/179816/facts_and_figures.html)

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