chapter  2
47 Pages

Smoke and mirrors—circulating racial images in cigarette advertising

Cigarette smoking and advertising are linked in controversy. For a public skeptical about “truth in advertising,” the exposure of the tobacco industry during the 1990s’ litigation leading up to the $206 billion Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement (MTSA) gave the best evidence to date of deception. In that Agreement with 46 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the District of Columbia, the five largest tobacco manufacturers were ordered to pay damages for the costs incurred by states because of health problems caused by smoking (Wilson, 1999). The public learned in news story after news story about the tobacco industry’s disregard for the known negative health consequences of smoking. We also learned about the tactics used to target potential smokers and to garner brand preferences. Another major accomplishment of the settlement forced the tobacco companies to curb their advertising to youth. Overall, the MTSA struck a major legal and financial blow to the tobacco industry and put that industry in a vulnerable, suspect position with the public. Venues and types of advertising became points of regulation, and increasing numbers of watchdog groups and researchers cast their eyes toward the tobacco industry.