Hip-Hop Images Blamed for Seducing Minority Youth into Smoking

Article excerpt

ATLANTA

The colorful images on the boxes of Kool cigarettes depict the urban nightlife. On one, a disc jockey scratches a record. On another, people are captured dancing mid-bounce.

Other trendy cigarette brands feature a blend of menthol tobacco with flavors like berry, mocha, coconut or lime.

The latest cigarette marketing efforts have caught the attention of health officials and anti-tobacco activists, who are accusing tobacco companies of using hip-hop images and attractive flavors to seduce minority youth into smoking.

"What adult that you know prefers a tropical or berry-flavored cigarette?" asked Sherri Watson Hyde, executive director of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network. "One wonders if we're talking about a cigarette or Lifesavers or Now & Later."

Health officials gathered in August in Atlanta to voice "our opposition to the attempts of the tobacco industry to seduce our youth using the appeal of hip-hop culture," says Dr. James Gavin III, president of Morehouse School of Medicine.

Representatives of the American Legacy Foundation, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, the National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco Prevention, and Morehouse called for cigarette makers to remove the products from stores, especially in minority communities.

The new Kool Mixx, Kool Smooth Fusion and Camel Exotic Blends--all from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.--and Philip Morris' Marlboro Menthol 72mm are being heavily marketed to youth in Black, Hispanic and other minority communities, the activists said.

They accused tobacco companies of using flavored cigarettes to draw children who are not used to the taste of a regular cigarette.

"It's hard to believe that these sweet-tasting products are not targeted to youth," Iowa attorney general Tom Miller said in a prepared statement. "That the tobacco companies can say otherwise with a straight face is down-right appalling."

Kool ads have appeared in Black magazines such as Ebony, Essence and Vibe, which included in its April issue a CD-ROM that blended the Kool Mixx brand with hip-hop music. …