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Latinos and Tobacco Use in New Jersey
Latinos “hottest emerging market” for tobacco companies

In August 05, Time Magazine reported Latino consumer spending had reached $800 billion, a market that tobacco companies have known for sometime as the hottest emerging market. The level of Latino consumer spending coupled with the age factor make Latinos a perfect strategic focus for tobacco marketing. Nearly 40% of Latinos are under 18 years of age; and since 90% of people who smoke do so before they are 19 years old, tobacco companies know that's where to recruit their new smokers.

Tobacco companies spend over $45 million a day in marketing tobacco; strategies that have paid off as the use of tobacco in New Jersey’s Hispanic community increased by 3%, while non-Hispanic residents tobacco use had decreased by 3% according to a survey by the School of Public Health, UMDNJ, 2003.

Tobacco advertisements aimed at the Latino community are cultural and language appropriate. Images are positive and portray healthy, successful and beautiful men and women. They are hip and cool and enjoying life. The impact of these advertisements coupled with other factors including acculturation, for many, lower education attainment, and risky health behaviors contribute to a rising trend of tobacco use. For example, as Hispanic adolescents begin the acculturation process, their patterns of experimentation with substances, including tobacco, begins to resemble that of non-Hispanic whites. Also, multi-ethnic adolescents (those who identify with two or more ethnic groups) appear to be at a higher risk of smoking initiation as well. Tobacco companies know that about half of all adolescents who start smoking in early adolescence will continue to smoke with regularity, in other words they will become addicted.

Reversing the upward trend of smoking in the Latino community will not happen overnight, but it can happen. Programs that are culturally and linguistically sensitive and employ a number of strategies to inform and educate the Latino community will reap the best results.


Claribel Beltrez Community Outreach Coordinator
125 Paterson Street, Suite 2300 | New Brunswick, NJ 08903 | Phone 732 235-8222 | Fax 732 235-7144