Collection: Belair Classics
When menthol cigarettes were first brought to market, they were advertised to the general population as an occasional cigarette to smoke when sick or suffering from smoker’s cough. However, the 1960s brought along the beginnings of a different image for the menthol cigarette. In 1969 alone, Lorillard increased its “Negro market budget” by 87% over 1968 due to increased efforts marketing its menthol cigarette, Newport, to the African American market. Likewise, British American Tobacco doubled their budget from 1968 to 1969 in order to increase African-American radio station coverage for its menthol cigarette, Kool (1). Government surveys in 2011 revealed that menthol cigarettes dominate 30% of the overall market, and over 80% of black smokers prefer menthol as opposed to 22% of non-Hispanic white smokers (2).
Recent menthol ads are clearly marketed toward a younger, urban demographic. Many of the ads feature models of a variety of ethnicities, and African Americans are particularly targeted. Recent Salem ads from the 2000s feature the slogan, “Stir the senses,” and each ad depicts a model smoking in green, mentholated ecstasy. Other Salem ads from the 2000s reveal clear youth targeting through a risk-taking appeal. For example, one of the ads presents an “underground” party, another presents a couple with an intertwining, extreme tattoo, and a third presents a scantily clad woman riding on the back of a man’s motorcycle – all in urban settings.
Kool’s advertisements from 2005 used the slogan “Be True,” which urged consumers to not only be true to themselves, but also to be true and loyal to the brand. Accompanying the “Be True” slogan was a variety of phrases such as “Be Passionate,” “Be Original,” “Be Smooth,” and “Be Bold,” all of which appeal to adolescents and young adults trying to “find themselves” and develop a sense of self. The “Be True” ads largely feature musicians, ranging from guitar players to disc jockeys, and their ethnicities are also noticeably diverse. In our collection, Asians, African Americans, and Caucasians are all represented in the “Be True” ad campaign. Other Kool campaigns from the 2000s, like “House of Menthol,” are more transparently urban-oriented, featuring boom boxes, speaker systems, microphones, graffiti, or skyscrapers. A subset of these ads features the “Kool Mixx” which claims to “celebrate the soundtrack to the streets” through limited edition cigarette packs. Urban youth were clearly a priority.
1. “A Study of Ethnic Markets.” R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Sept 1969. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/paq76b00
2. Wilson, Duff. “Advisory Panel urges F.D.A. to re-examine menthol in cigarettes.” The New York Times. 18 March 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/19/business/19tobacco.html