Saturday, February 23, 2013

Racial composition of smokers of top cigarette brands in the US

Journey into my head for a moment to take a gander at the cigarette brand stereotypes I hold.

To the extent that SWPLs still smoke cigarettes, they smoke Camels, especially Turkish blends. Blacks love menthol, and Newport is the premier menthol brand (Kool isn't the Pepsi to Newport's Coke, it's the 7 Up). Hispanics, especially the short, brown ones who know less English than you know Spanish, have an affinity for the gaucho/cowboy image--makes them feel a bit more at home, or at least better about being away from it. Pall Mall is the non-generic brand of choice for white trash. Doral is the more multicultural non-generic choice of the poor proles. Winston is a classier Marlboro.

Now let's put the tagline into action and validate these conceptions to the extent that they're worthy of validation. The following graphs show the racial breakdown of smokers of the top six most popular cigarette brands in the US as of 2011. Data comes from the National Survey on Health and Drug Use and the CDC:

Marlboro has the largest Hispanic share of the big brands. So far, so good.

Yeah, that one was easy. You really have to have your head in the sand or live a life in which you rarely come into contact with the lower rungs of society not to realize that Newports are as black a brand as are Air Jordans and Church's Chicken. Yes, Barack Obama purportedly used to smoke Marlboros, not Newports. That shouldn't come as a surprise (though I would've guessed he smoked Camels).

Difficult to tell from racial composition alone. It's not the whitest brand, but it is the least black brand, which is a fairly good indication that it's yuppie stuff.

So white. But these are the wrong kind of white people. They're apt to call these things "pell mells" or in some other way butcher the pronunciation of such a simple rhyming phrase.

Winston is the brand that most closely mirrors old stock America.

Okay, maybe Doral more closely mirrors old stock America than Winston does. Perhaps I need to claibrate a little--Winston is the classier Doral.

National Survey on Health and Drug Use variables used: CIG30BR2(104, 107, 115, 118, 119, 126), NEWRACE2(1)(2)(3)(4-5)(6)(7)


Anonymous said...

"To the extent that SWPLs still smoke cigarettes, they smoke Camels, especially Turkish blends. "

I always thought Parliaments were the SWPL cigarette. (Parliament Lights used to be my main cigarette in college)

Turkish blend Camels is what I smoked in high school...

In college, I also smoked the weird flavored camel cigarettes... there were like 4 different ones but I can only remember orange and lemon. These are now completely banned now.

And I also smoked Benson and Hedges... both regular and menthol.

I don't smoke anymore because I moved back with my parents for a year after college and just quit.

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago, when I was living in Connecticut, I spent several months at a clerical job in one of the criminal courthouses. One of my duties included giving receipts for packs of cigarettes that family members and friends brought into court for delivery to inmates in the courthouse lockup. I would say, no exaggeration, that at least 90% of the cigarettes were Newports, even though no more than a third of the inmates were black.


Steve Sailer said...

Were Newports used as currency in the jail?

Billy Bob said...

Interesting view on demographic segmentation for cigarettes.
Just as a confirmation, "Pall Mall" is correctly pronounced "Pell Mell" (
The more interesting thing will be to watch what the FDA decides to do as it develops its regulatory strategy which it received approval to do in 2009.
Three of those intentions include: eliminating "menthol" as it is believed by some to encourage more youth to begin smoking as menthol masks the harshness of cigarette smoke; the FDA's interest to place graphic pictures of cancerous pictures as is now done in Australia; and to introduce regulation that says nicotine is a drug and should require a doctor's precription as is being proposed in Oregon.
Ironically, only 10% of the cigarette smokers die of lung cancer (although a much greater number of smokers die of smoking-related illnesses).
Maybe I'll live long enough to see warning graphics on a bucket of chicken of a fat guy with clotted arteries holding a precription from his doctor walking into the local KFC.

Anonymous said...

Were Newports used as currency in the jail?

They were, at least I recall one of the court officers saying so. That would have come to an end a few years later when Connecticut banned cigarettes in prisons, most other states did likewise. No doubt inmates found other sources of informal currency.


SC said...

Parliaments indeed are the SWPL cigarette. Could Audacious Epigone please put up any stats regarding racial composition of Parliament customers? My guess is that the customers would be overwhelmingly white, with very few black/hispanic customers.

Steve Sailer said...

Were Newports used as currency in the jail? In the sense that Winstons and Camels weren't accepted as currency, or only at a discount, so you had to have Newports?

Or do jailbirds just love the taste of Newports?

Audacious Epigone said...


Yes, I will as an addendum to this post.


Time for me to eat some crow. Thanks for setting me straight on that.

A law passed in 2009 banned the sale of flavored cigarettes with the glaring exception of menthol, which was basically grandfathered in. Looks like the FDA gained approval to evaluate the 'unique' risks of menthol after this.

The health study containing the data for this post also tracked smoker preference by age. I'll try and see if there is a detectable 'preference' for menthol among younger cohorts.

JayMan said...

All the smokers in my family smoked Newports...

It's interesting that these preferences exist. Good work digging this up!

robert61 said...

No American Spirits in the database?

Audacious Epigone said...


American Spirits are included. I just looked at the top six brands. The AS racial distribution is very similar to the distribution for Camels.

Muhammad Amir said...

The following graphs cigarettes for sale show the racial breakdown of smokers of the top six most popular cigarette brands

Saint Louis said...

"Winston is a classier Marlboro."

I wasn't aware that there was such a thing as a classy cigarette.

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