Pushing Cool

Wailoo Keith
"In the 1930s, menthols were 3% of the smoking market but by the 1970s, they accounted for a quarter and climbing. What explains this rise? Moreover, how did it happen that early into the new millennium an estimated 75% of Black smokers, compared to 30% of white smokers, chose menthol brands? Pushing Cool covers the contentious history of the menthol cigarette. It is a story steeped in racial and gendered marketing and revealing of the "endless inventiveness of capitalism." This is the first book to tell the menthol story, and in doing so illuminates broader stories of race, gender, consumerism, and the (scientific?) shaping of preferences and tastes by business in modern America. Pushing Cool dives deep into the ways in which systemic disparities across race are fostered by targeted consumer marketing, among other things. Ten years ago, when Congress banned flavored cigarettes as illegitimate enticements to encourage youth smoking, menthol cigarettes were also slated to be banned. Although menthol smoking first emerged in the twentieth century having little to do with race, today Black smokers overwhelmingly smoke menthol brands such as Kool, Salem, and Newport, and calls to prohibit their circulation hinge on a history of the industry's targeted racial marketing. But menthols escaped the ban and remain legal largely because of the effort of several powerful Black Congressmen. To ban menthols, they insisted, was discriminatory against Black preferences. In five chapters spanning a century, Pushing Cool reveals how this story of Black affinity with menthol was crafted-how tobacco companies, social researchers, and marketers, as well as Black lawmakers and civic groups like the NAACP, helped the industry create a powerful narrative that has withstood efforts to ban menthol smoking to this day"--
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Spanning a century, Pushing Cool reveals how the twin deceptions of health and Black affinity for menthol were crafted--and how the industry's disturbingly powerful narrative has endured to this day.

Police put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold for selling cigarettes on a New York City street corner. George Floyd was killed by police outside a store in Minneapolis known as "the best place to buy menthols." Black smokers overwhelmingly prefer menthol brands such as Kool, Salem, and Newport. All of this is no coincidence. The disproportionate Black deaths and cries of "I can't breathe" that ring out in our era--because of police violence, COVID-19, or menthol smoking--are intimately connected to a post-1960s history of race and exploitation.

In Pushing Cool, Keith Wailoo tells the intricate and poignant story of menthol cigarettes for the first time. He pulls back the curtain to reveal the hidden persuaders who shaped menthol buying habits and racial markets across America: the world of tobacco marketers, consultants, psychologists, and social scientists, as well as Black lawmakers and civic groups like the NAACP. Today most Black smokers buy menthols, and calls to prohibit their circulation hinge on a history of the industry's targeted racial marketing. Ten years ago, when Congress banned flavored cigarettes as criminal enticements to encourage youth smoking, menthol cigarettes were also slated to be banned. Through a detailed study of internal tobacco industry documents, Wailoo exposes why they weren't and how they remain so popular with Black smokers.

Spanning a century, Pushing Cool reveals how the twin deceptions of health and Black affinity for menthol were crafted--and how the industry's disturbingly powerful narrative has endured to this day.

More Information
Publisher University of Chicago Press
ISBN-10 022679413X
ISBN-13 9780226794136
GTIN-13 9780226794136
GTIN-14 09780226794136
Subtitle Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette
Author Wailoo Keith
Edition 1
Language Code eng
Page Count 392
Publication Date Oct 17, 2021
Dimension 6 in 9 in 0 in