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Kool Cigarettes Target Blacks

By NANCY ZUCKERBROD, Associated Press Writer

A tobacco company's marketing campaign featuring hip-hop characters appears to be aimed at black youths in violation of a settlement between the industry and 46 states, the state attorney general in charge of enforcing the agreement said Wednesday.
 
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.'s campaign for Kool cigarettes includes images of youthful rappers, disc jockeys and dancers on cigarette packs and in ads. Under terms of the settlement, tobacco companies are barred from targeting teens through advertising or marketing.

"Its advertising, retail displays and packaging appear to be targeted to youth, and particularly African-American youth," said Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe, who heads the tobacco enforcement committee of the association representing attorneys general.

If state officials believe a company has violated the agreement, they can try to resolve the dispute through talks or they can sue to enforce the settlement in court. A court can impose fines.

The Louisville, Ky.-based company did not respond to calls seeking comment. In a press release issued last month, the company said the images used in the campaign were rendered by "urban artists." It said the campaign was designed to "celebrate the energy and creativity of the urban hip-hop culture."

Brown & Williamson was among the companies that agreed in 1998 to pay $206 billion to settle smoking-related health care claims brought by states. Among the agreement's provisions is a prohibition on giveaways of non-tobacco branded merchandise.

Brown & Williamson is giving away interactive CD-ROMs as magazine inserts as part of its Kool campaign.

Rowe sent the company a letter last week asking for a meeting to talk about the campaign. He also asked the company to stop placing the cigarettes and the ad displays in convenience stores, and to stop distributing the CD-ROMs. The magazines carrying the CD-ROMs include Rolling Stone and Vibe, which are popular with young readers.

An aide to Rowe said company officials said they would respond to Rowe's requests in writing but have yet to do so.

Sherri Watson Hyde said she was "absolutely outraged and appalled" to see the Kool displays in convenience stores around her home near Orlando, Fla.

Hyde, who heads the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, said it is obvious the ads were designed to pique the interest of teens.

"It's very clear, in terms of the way the people are dressed and the images that are being presented, there's a younger audience that they're after," Hyde said.

Kool is a menthol brand. Hyde said at least 75 percent of black smokers prefer menthol to regular cigarettes, compared to roughly 23 percent of white smokers.






 

 

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