Collection: Modern Menthol
This theme contains ads which represent a variety of the leading menthol brands, particularly Salem and Kool. A few recent ads for the mentholated versions of Winstons, Vantage, Marlboro, and Camel are also included. These ads are clearly marketed toward a younger, urban demographic. Additionally, many of the ads feature models of a variety of ethnicities, and African Americans are particularly targeted. The ads reveal the ludicrous targeting techniques employed by menthol brands and the lengths to which they will go in order to gain a stronger market share over youths and African Americans, the leading consumers of menthol cigarettes.
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. The 1990s saw Salem’s “Refreshest” campaign, which targeted teens and adolescents with mind-boggling images like a woman relaxing on a pool floatie inside of a grand piano filled with water, or, similarly, a couple lounging in the pick-up of a truck, also filled with water. Earlier Salem ads (“Salem Spirit”) from the 1980s used a technique largely reminiscent of Newport’s long-lived “Pleasure” campaign, spotlighting groups of young friends having fun in athletic, outdoorsy settings. All of these ads blatantly target youth.
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.
As of 2011, almost half of all 12- to 17-year-old smokers prefer menthols, while the total market share of menthols claims only 30% of all smokers (1). Additionally, according to one study conducted in 2006, 62.4% of middle school students who had smoked for less than a year tended to smoke menthols (2). Data like this has lead many experts, including the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), to believe that the presence of menthols on the market increase the rate of smoking initiation. Additionally, 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 (1).
Wilson, Duff. “Advisory Panel urges F.D.A. to re-examine menthol in cigarettes.” The New York Times. 18 March 2011.
Hersey J.C. et al. “Are menthol cigarettes a starter product for youth?” Nicotine & Tobacco Research. June 2006. 8:3;403-413.