They’re Still Talking Bout YOU

Hay Network Hay,

Last week I went to a training by La Tanisha Wright, former trade marketing manager for Brown and Williamson Co (now a part of RJ Reynolds), currently a fierce anti-tobacco/tobacco control activist. This was some of the most interesting information that I have heard to date about how the tobacco corporations screw over marginalized communities because it was an inside perspective on all of those little things that are put in place to target our communities to become life long addicts. Let me extrapolate…

Let’s talk about language. Corporate tobacco knows we are watching them, so they have crafted a linguistic system to keep litigation and keen tobacco control activists always guessing what their intentions are. For example, corp-tobaco doesn’t want you to think that they target minors (cuz that’s ILLEGAL) so they use the language ASU 30 (adult smoker under 30…insert any age) and ASO 21 (adult smoke over 21). Now, this might not seem that deceptive to you, but there are distinct differences between the demographics of ASU 30 and ASO 30, and corp-tobacco incorporates marketing campaigns that appeal to MSU 18 (minor smoker under 18, an e.shor creation) into these campaigns. Check out this picture of the Kool MIXX campaign if you don’t believe me…


Another language lesson that La Tanisha taught me was about “focus” communities and “non-focus” communities. Instead of saying let’s target African American people or LGBTQ people or Native American and American Indian communities, now corp-tobacco says “focus” and “non-focus.” Focus is the term corp-tobacco literally uses to refer to “low socio-economic status communities with urban characteristics with high economic insecurity and risk of poverty, lower education, and less access to health insurance.” Corp-tobacco, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard (they have the biggest market share in focus communities) put more marketing in focus communities, provide more coupons in focus communities, and give more discounts of tobacco products in focus communities. So who are they targeting?

“We don’t smoke that shit, we just reserve the right to sell it to the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid.”

–as quoted in a New York Times editorial by Bob Hebert, 1993

The inspiring part of La Tanisha’s story is that she identified the ruthless and manipulative marketing ways of corp-tobacco through the branding of the Kool MIXX campaign (see pic above) and is now teaching tobacco control folks about how the company she worked for silenced her, silenced her community, and has sneakily coerced millions of people into becoming slaves to their poisonous products. La Tanisha painted an earnest history of African American people emerging from slavery in the tobacco fields to the slavery of addiction of corp-tobacco due to the intensive marketing in African American communities. This is not an accident. Corp-tobacco knows your history and they will use your pain and weaknesses to make you believe whatever you want…as long as you use their products.

I have so much more to say here, but I understand the attention span of most readers is longer than mine and I am…mmmmm pretty colors.

Whoa…I’m back.

I know this blog is about LGBTQ tobacco control, but unfortunately, one of the things I am learning on my journey in this field is that LGBTQ folks are targeted by corporate tobacco alongside the African American communities, Native communities, Latino communities, Southeast Asian communities, people in poverty, homeless people, and so many others. In my work, I need to constantly acknowledge that we are all working in solidarity with one another.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday time,


2 thoughts on “They’re Still Talking Bout YOU

  1. I found your information about La Tanisha Wright’s presentation interesting. Would love to read more from her presentation, especially regarding the language tobacco companies use in their inside documents. The tobacco companies don’t show advertisements with old people in them, they show hip, young replacement smokers. Every young person in every category is targeted.

  2. “..always guessing what their intentions are.”

    I’m pretty sure that I always know what their intentions are, but it’s very informative to know how they go about trying to accomplish those intentions. Great post!

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