Have you noticed that Black neighborhoods have more tobacco ads than any others? While tobacco knows no color or community, it seems big tobacco advertisers and marketing executives do.
Which is exactly what a new ad campaign from the anti-smoking group truth wants you to know. The ad, which stars Insecure actress and comedienne Amanda Seales, accuses big tobacco executives of continuing to deliberately and disproportionately target marginalized groups, including Blacks, low income and LGBTQ communities and people who are mentally ill.
The truth Initiative is determined to shine a light on how the industry deliberately targets marginalized communities.
Along with Seales, the truth #STOPPROFILING campaign tackles the targeted social injustice being committed at the hands of the these companies.
Seales spoke with ESSENCE exclusively about her involvement with the campaign and the statistics that impact Black neighborhoods.
“I honestly was just generally frustrated at the continued efforts I feel like are put in place to harm the Black community in a deleterious way,” she said. “It was just another element that I honestly didn’t know about. It was very surprising that I didn’t know about it. That was actually the most shocking part, like “How did I not know about this,” Because the numbers are just staggering, which is of course what made me say ‘I need to be a part of this, if I can be.’”
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In major cities, like Washington D.C. for example, there are up to 10 times more advertisements placed in the black neighborhood by marketers than any other neighborhood. The scariest part? The retail stores that sell an array of tobacco products to consumers are located near schools in low income communities more than anywhere else.
“To be honest the most surprising thing I learned wasn’t even the statistics,” the actress added. “It was when we went into the neighborhood and talked to people and told them about the statistics and I wanted them to be angrier, and they were more so resigned to ’it’s our fault.’ I feel like that was what was so shocking to me, was how successful this marketing has been to the point that it has made the consumer feel like it is their fault for receiving the actual emotional manipulation that is being put in front of them to the advertising of tobacco, on such a massive level.”
Seales also shared that the campaign comes at such a crucial time, particularly because of the nation’s current political climate.
“We are at a time when information and education is key,” she said. “This administration has made it very clear that they don’t really care about information, education and even facts. It is a necessity that people arm themselves with information in order to challenge these factors that are hoping to press them. When it comes to truth, that is what they want to do. To inform people and to arm people with the facts so that they can challenge those that are trying to hurt them, and in this case it’s the tobacco company.”
After all, the organization didn’t get it’s name for staying quiet.
“That’s why it’s called the truth, it is all about giving young people the facts,” says CEO and President of Truth Initiative Robin Koval. “It’s not about wagging a finger at them, or saying, ‘Tobacco is bad for your health’, which of course it is and everybody knows. But it’s helping them to understand that if you give people the facts and help them to understand, they’ll make the best decisions for themselves.”
If you’re not a smoke, the organization insists that there’s still a way to help. Tell a friend who does smoke and spread the information about how big tobacco is targeting them directly because they can.
“We’re looking to enlist all of the power and the influence and the passion of this generation to make it the one that ends smoking,” says Koval. “And that’s really the big foundational idea.”
Look out for the #STOPPROFILING campaign from truth when it makes its debut on Sunday during the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.