On May 27, 2020, Counter Tools held a webinar on “Tobacco Ad Messaging Strategies at the Point of Sale – A Health Equity Focused Case Study,” a part of our Healthy POS Webinar Series.
Despite evidence of disparities in exposure to tobacco retailers and point-of-sale advertising, little is known about the extent to which tobacco advertisements within African American communities use three prominent messaging strategies: reassure use is safe despite health risks, redirect attention from health risks to other product features, or incite bravery to use despite health risks. Using a multi-stage design, this study used Counter Tools’ Store Mapper to identify retailers, then assessed tobacco ad messages at retail stores in predominately African American communities in NC. Findings suggest messaging strategies differ across product types. Cigarette and nonlarge cigar advertisement messages may prey upon African American communities by redirecting focus from harmful product effects toward favorable product attributes. Additionally, reassurance messaging may misconstrue risks associated with e-cigarettes. Countering misleading messages and advocating policies regarding advertisement content and density within African American communities could help reduce health disparities.
Dr. Rosario is an associate professor of public health education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). She has served the UNCG Department of Public Health Education in an executive leadership role for the past 7 years and is currently Associate Department Chair. Guided by principles of social justice and health equity, her primary research interests are to advance place-based public health and impact the social determinants of tobacco-related health disparities. Most recently, Dr. Rosario has used geographic information systems (GIS) to study JUUL retailer proximity to US high schools and investigated tobacco advertisement messaging strategies in African American communities in North Carolina.