Racialized Geography, Corporate Activity, and Health Disparities: Tobacco Industry Targeting of Inner Cities

Industry has played a complex role in the rise of tobacco-related diseases in the United States. The tobacco industry's activities, including targeted marketing, are arguably among the most powerful corporate influences on health and health policy. We analyzed over 400 internal tobacco industry documents to explore how, during the past several decades, the industry targeted inner cities populated predominantly by low-income African American residents with highly concentrated menthol cigarette marketing. We study how major tobacco companies competed against one another in menthol wars fought within these urban cores. Little previous work has analyzed the way in which the inner city's complex geography of race, class, and place shaped the avenues used by tobacco corporations to increase tobacco use in low-income, predominantly African American urban cores in the 1970s–1990s. Our analysis shows how the industry's activities contributed to the racialized geography of today's tobacco-related health disparities.