Smoking, social class, and gender: what can public health learn from the tobacco industry about disparities in smoking?

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Abstract

Objective:

To discover how the tobacco industry considers social class and gender in its efforts to market cigarettes in the USA, particularly to socially disadvantaged young women.

Methods:

A systematic on-line search of tobacco industry documents using selected keywords was conducted, and epidemiological data on smoking rates reviewed.

Results:

The two largest cigarette manufacturers in the USA consider “working class” young adults to be a critical market segment to promote growth of key brands. Through their own market research, these companies discovered that socially disadvantaged young women do not necessarily desire a “feminine” cigarette brand.

Conclusions:

Considering the tobacco industry’s efforts, alongside the persistent and growing disparities in cigarette smoking by social class, and the narrowing of differences in smoking by gender, it is concluded that additional tobacco control resources ought to be directed toward working class women.

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