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Tobacco industry marketing to low socioeconomic status women in the USA
  1. Cati G Brown-Johnson1,
  2. Lucinda J England2,
  3. Stanton A Glantz1,3,
  4. Pamela M Ling1,4
  1. 1Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, San Francisco, California, USA
  2. 2Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  3. 3Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Philip R Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, San Francisco, California, USA
  4. 4Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pamela M Ling, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education University of California, San Francisco, 350 Parnassus Ave. suite 366, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA; pling{at}


Objectives Describe tobacco companies' marketing strategies targeting low socioeconomic status (SES) females in the USA.

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 USA 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.

  • Tobacco industry
  • Tobacco industry documents
  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Priority/special populations

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