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‘Predatory’ cigarette marketing to U.S. black youth: study

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SAN FRANCISCO — Menthol cigarettes are marketed to African-American youths in a “predatory” manner through more ads and lower prices near California high schools, said a US study released on Friday.

Researchers at Stanford University said their findings, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, show that menthol cigarette makers are aiming to get young people addicted and are harming the nation’s health.

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For many years, the mint-flavored cigarettes have been more popular among blacks than other ethnic groups. US regulators are mulling whether to restrict or ban the sale of menthol cigarettes altogether.

For the study, researchers randomly selected food shops and convenience stores in easy walking distance of 91 schools, and took note of how cigarettes were marketed.

In places with more black kids, the price of Newports, a top brand of menthols, was lower and more advertisements could be seen.

“For every 10-percentage-point increase in the proportion of African-American students at a school, the proportion of advertisements for menthol cigarettes increased by 5.9 percentage points,” said the study.

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“Additionally, the odds of an advertised discount for Newport, the leading brand of menthol cigarettes, were 1.5 times greater.”

For every 10 percent increase in the number of black students at a nearby school, the price of a pack of Newports was 12 cents lower. Similar discounts by demographics were not seen in a leading non-menthol brand, Marlboro.

“That’s important because lower prices tend to lead to increased cigarette use,” said Lisa Henriksen, senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

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Lorillard, the company that makes Newports, did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

The US Food and Drug Administration is set to meet July 21 to discuss whether to restrict or ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, but no date for a final decision has been set.

The FDA’s advisory panel has said removing them from the market would “benefit public health in the United States.” The FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of the panel but it often does.

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“The committee was charged with considering a broad definition of harm to smokers and other populations, particularly youth,” said Henriksen.

“We think our study, which shows the predatory marketing in school neighborhoods with higher concentrations of youth and African-American students, fits a broad definition of harm.”

The Stanford research noted that “preference for menthol cigarettes among teenage smokers increased from 43.4 percent in 2004 to 48.3 percent in 2008.” Their data on marketing near high schools was collected in 2006.

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Among smoking youths aged 12-17, menthol cigarettes were most popular among African-Americans (71.9 percent), compared to Hispanics (47 percent) and whites (41 percent).

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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