Marketing Disease to Hispanics

I attended a Hispanic-American convention recently and saw a variety of corporate sponsors sporting their identity. So, when the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released its report last week titled “Marketing Disease to Hispanics,” I was not surprised. Not until I read the shocking contents which documented the nature of the epidemic.

High or rising rates of cancer, obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, and other health problems are linked to cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, fast foods and soft drinks. In turn, the alcohol, tobacco, and junk-food companies have demographically and cynically targeted Hispanics with more than massive marketing campaigns. They are buying the silence of Hispanic organizations and publications on these merchandise-linked health problems.

Carlos Molina, president of the Latino Caucus of the American Public Health Association attributes “that silence to the fact that the groups and publications typically receive tens of thousands of dollars each year in the form of donations or advertising” from what he calls ‘pathogenic corporations.’

Professor Emilio Carrillo, a public health specialist at Harvard Medical School declared that “It’s a sad state of affairs that minority organizations have to turn to purveyors of death for support.”

In the report’s afterward, Rodolfo Acuna, professor of Chicano studies at California State University-Northridge charged that the alcohol and tobacco industries are mounting a “conscious campaign to addict Third World communities inside and outside the borders of the First World.”

Some of the largest advertisers, donors and sponsors of Hispanic events are Philip Morris (Marlboro cigarettes, Miller beer), Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser beer), Procter & Gamble (Crisco, Jif peanut butter), McDonald’s (hamburgers, french fries) and Coors (beer).

The ad campaigns are geared especially to getting Hispanic youth addicted to alcohol and tobacco, according to Congressman Matthew Martinez (D-CA). The CSPI report is full of statistics, examples and other evidence to raise legitimate concerns about the predatory nature of these profiteering marketeers.

Bad health among Hispanics needs countering influences which discourage drinking and smoking and eating food full of fat, sugar and salt. Bad health among Hispanics needs Hispanic organizations who fight these merchants of disease in the marketplace and in the regulatory arenas. instead, these organizations who have fancy banquets and other events paid for by these disease-selling companies look the other way. They are little or no help to Mexican-born men, for example, who have a 40 percent higher risk of death due to cirrhosis of the liver than their male counterparts.

It is not enough for protests against discrimination and poverty to carry the day for many Hispanic families. One of the reasons for such misery is that many of them are prey to these disease-merchants, starting at a young age. These addictive industries are quite content to have Hispanic groups cry out for civil rights and jobs as long as they do not direct their displeasure to the promotional selling of destructive products.

The CSPI report has some concrete recommendations to diminish this commercial exploitation. Interested persons can obtain a copy from CSPI, 1501 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 for $6.95.

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