Tobacco industry marketing to low socioeconomic status women in the U.S.A

Tob Control. 2014 Nov;23(e2):e139-46. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051224. Epub 2014 Jan 21.


Objectives: Describe tobacco companies' marketing strategies targeting low socioeconomic status (SES) females in the U.S.A.

Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.

Results: Tobacco companies focused marketing on low SES women starting in the late 1970s, including military wives, low-income inner-city minority women, 'discount-susceptible' older female smokers and less-educated young white women. Strategies included distributing discount coupons with food stamps to reach the very poor, discount offers at point-of-sale and via direct mail to keep cigarette prices low, developing new brands for low SES females and promoting luxury images to low SES African-American women. More recently, companies integrated promotional strategies targeting low-income women into marketing plans for established brands.

Conclusions: Tobacco companies used numerous marketing strategies to reach low SES females in the U.S.A. for at least four decades. Strategies to counteract marketing to low SES women could include (1) counteracting price discounts and direct mail coupons that reduce the price of tobacco products, (2) instituting restrictions on point-of-sale advertising and retail display and (3) creating counteradvertising that builds resistance to psychosocial targeting of low SES women. To achieve health equity, tobacco control efforts are needed to counteract the influence of tobacco industry marketing to low-income women.

Keywords: Advertising and Promotion; Priority/special populations; Socioeconomic status; Tobacco industry; Tobacco industry documents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Marketing* / methods
  • Smoking / economics*
  • Social Class*
  • Tobacco Industry / economics*
  • Tobacco Industry / methods
  • Tobacco Products / economics*
  • United States