November 20, 2002
Tobacco industry called big donor to black groups
UC researchers find companies gave to 60 African-American
By FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
University of California researchers say their review of tobacco
industry documents shows the companies have tried to boost
their presence in the black community by targeting groups
such as the NAACP, giving money and cultivating beneficial
research paper by UC San Francisco's Valerie Yerger and Ruth
Malone is to be published in the December issue of the journal
Tobacco Control. The pair combed through about 700 tobacco
company documents released over the past few years, and concluded
the companies were contributing money to groups to increase
their political influence.
hasn't been a secret that the industry has been in the African-
American community, what hasn't been known were the secret
business reasons," Yerger said Tuesday in an interview.
paper said the major tobacco companies -- R.J. Reynolds, Philip
Morris, Lorillard and Brown & Williamson -- gave money
to more than 60 black organizations.
Reynolds spokesman David Howard, who said he had not seen
the paper and could not comment on its findings, noted many
companies contribute to organizations strategically.
do that so we have an
to have our side heard," Howard said.
Yerger said the practice is especially acute within the black
Americans as a group are disproportionately burdened by tobacco-related
diseases and death," she said.
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks
collectively have higher smoking rates than whites, and black
male smokers have a 50 percent higher chance of developing
lung cancer than white male smokers.
year, about 45,000 blacks in the United States die from a
preventable, smoking-related disease.500,000 may die
current trends continue, 1.6 million blacks now under 18 years
old will become regular smokers and 500,000 will die of a
smoking-related disease, according to the Centers for Disease
for the Oakland NAACP and Urban League could not be reached
for comment, or declined to.
Carter, executive director of Bay Area Black United Fund,
said he is planning an African American Health Summit for
early next year.
He said he would never take money from the tobacco industry.
"We are trying to upgrade health awareness in our community,
and taking money from R.J. Reynolds would undermine our responsibility
said his company doesn't target the black community more than
the ultimate question is, does R.J. Reynolds want adult African-American
smokers to switch to an R.J. Reynolds brand, the answer is
yes. We also want white adult smokers, Hispanic adult smokers,
and female adult smokers to switch," he said. "There
is virtually universal awareness of the risks associated with
smoking. (African Americans) have the same ability and right
as the rest of the population to evaluate and make informed
decisions about whether they want to use tobacco, or any other
said she hopes African Americans will be more aware of the
presence of tobacco companies in their communities, which
she said has become an everyday part of life.
organizations are dependent on this money, they tend to become
silent about the effects of tobacco on their community,"
she said. "We're really hoping we'll get some dialogue
going to disclose the true cost to the African-American community
that comes from these ties to the tobacco companies."
Callender, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley branch
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, said Philip Morris has sponsored events at the national
level and that the national office distributes money to the
branches. He said that money normally goes to specific programs.
said the NAACP is aware of the strong presence of tobacco
in the black community, and it has health programs that encourage
people not to smoke.
NAACP's always going to speak up for what's right, regardless
of who's funding the issue," Callender said. "Justice
can't be bought."
1997, 32.1 percent of black males and 22.4 percent of black
females said they were current smokers, according to surveys.More
also have been studies that show blacks inhale more because
they prefer smoother menthol cigarettes. Three out of four
blacks prefer menthol cigarettes compared to one out of four
whites. "Menthol may facilitate absorption of harmful
cigarette-smoke constituents," the Centers for Disease
response, the National Association of African Americans for
Positive Imagery was part of a successful campaign directed
at R.J. Reynolds, which was targeting blacks with a menthol
brand called Uptown.
Boston, blacks complained about a new brand of cigarettes
sold in a package of red, black and green -- the colors of
African liberation groups -- with a large black "X"
on front -- a not-so-subtle tribute to Malcolm X, the subject
of a Spike Lee movie about the late and controversial black
writer Chauncey Bailey contributed to this story.