Alcohol and Tobacco Outdoor Advertising in Minority Communities

  • Date: Jan 01 1989
  • Policy Number: 8921

Key Words: Alcohol, Tobacco, Tobacco Advertising, Minorities

The American Public Health Association,

Knowing that alcohol and tobacco-related diseases are a national public health problem associated with approximately 590,000 deaths annually1,2 and up to $185 billion in economic costs each year,2,3 and that alcohol consumption is related to alcoholism, alcoholic psychosis, traffic casualties, other types of injuries, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular problems, certain cancers, birth defects, malnutrition, and other health problems; and tobacco consumption is related to lung and other cancers, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, low birthweight, and respiratory diseases;4 and

Knowing that patterns of alcohol and tobacco use are established in many cases prior to adulthood and knowing that the length of exposure increases the risk of addiction and disease and knowing further that the advertising and marketing of alcohol and tobacco products are effective in recruiting minority youth to those habits; and

Knowing that the use of tobacco products is disproportionately higher in some minority groups, e.g., 35 percent of all African Americans smoke vs 29 percent of Euro-Americans, and that the use of these products results in a disproportionate amount of tobacco-related diseases in minority communities;5 and

Knowing that the incidence of alcohol-related problems is higher in some minority communities, such as the African American and Native American communities whose cirrhosis death rates are twice and four times the cirrhosis death rate for the total US population, respectively; and

Knowing that in Latino communities there is a higher lifetime prevalence of alcohol disorders among Mexican American men than among non-Hispanic White men, and that the higher US rates of esophageal cancer are among Puerto Ricans and Blacks; and

Knowing that the use of alcohol and tobacco by pregnant women has an adverse effect on pregnancy1,2 and that there is a greater incidence of low birth weight babies among minority populations; and

Knowing that the alcohol and tobacco industries are increasing the use of outdoor billboard marketing near schools, churches, and playgrounds in minority communities;7,8 and

Knowing that studies have shown that in some minority communities cigarette and alcohol beverage advertisements were three times more prevalent than in adjacent White communities;9,10 and

Knowing that many citizen action groups are campaigning against the excessive placement of alcohol and tobacco billboards which link drinking and smoking with economic, social, athletic, and sexual success;11 and

Knowing that a disproportionate number of billboard advertisements target youth who are minority community members and who are at high risk for excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption;12-14 and

Understanding the massive amount of harm that tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption is engendering in minority communities; therefore

  1. Sets as a national priority the removal of all alcohol and tobacco outdoor advertising;
  2. In pursuit of this goal, calls on local and state government to take steps to reduce the exposure of minority youth to alcohol and tobacco outdoor advertising, including requiring the removal of all outdoor advertising located within 500 feet of any home, school, church, park, playground, hospital, health center, or government building; to remove all alcohol and tobacco advertising from sports stadiums, mass transit systems, and bus shelters; and to enforce existing local sign ordinances to prevent the indiscriminate proliferation of outdoor sign advertising of tobacco and alcohol;
  3. Calls on billboard advertisers to refrain from targeting minority communities with alcohol and tobacco outdoor advertising;
  4. Calls for the immediate removal of existing tobacco and alcohol advertising billboards including mini-billboards in minority neighborhoods;
  5. Calls for a ban on all free distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products as another form of advertising;
  6. Calls for the development of a component in school health education classes addressing the issue of manipulative advertising and empowering children to make healthy lifestyle choices; and
  7.  Calls for the advertising and media industries and the tobacco and alcohol beverage producing industries to incorporate into their codes of advertising practices prohibitions against targeting minority communities.


  1. US Department of Health and Human Services: Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress. A report of the Surgeon General 1989. DHHS Pub. No. (CDC) 89-8411. Rockville, MD: Office of Smoking and Health, January 11, 1989.
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services: Sixth Special Report to the US Congress on Alcohol and Health. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Division of Biometry and Epidemiology. Washington, DC: US Govt Printing Office, October 1988.
  3. US Office of Technology Assessment: Smoking-related Deaths and Financial Costs. Washington, DC: OTA, September 1985.
  4. US Department of Health and Human Services: Fifth Special Report to the US Congress on Alcohol and Health. Washington, DC: US Govt Printing Office, 1983.
  5. Bureau of Health Professions, Office of Health and Human Services: Health Status of Minorities and Low Income Groups. DHHS Pub. No. (HRSA) HRS-P-DV85-1. Washington, DC: Govt Printing Office, 1985.
  6. Spiegler D, Tate D, Aitken S, Christian C: Alcohol use among US ethnic minorities. In: Alcohol Use Among US Ethnic Minorities. Washington, DC: National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, March 1989;9.
  7. Hacker GA, Collins R, Jacobson M: Marketing booze to Blacks. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1987.
  8. Fact Sheet: Alcohol and tobacco advertising on billboards. Washington, DC: Coalition for Scenic Beauty, 1988.
  9. Lailande A: Outdoor and the inner city. On the docket. Marketing & Media Decisions, February 1989.
  10. Jackson DZ: Blacks and billboards' killing urge to smoke and drink. Boston Globe November 25, 1988;33.
  11. Johnson B: Fighting the signs of evil. Detroit News December 7, 1988, p. 1B.
  12. Brunswick AF, Merzel CR: Health through three life stages: A longitudinal study of urban Black adolescents. Soc Sci Med 1988;27(11):1207-1214.
  13. Magnus: Superman and the Marlboro Woman The Lungs of Lois Lane. NYS J Med July 1985;342-343.
  14. Holy smokes: Pushing cigarettes in kids' movies. Tobacco and Youth Reporter Summer 1986;11-12.

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