Tobacco Industry's Marketing to Homosexuals

By Perry Stevens | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

(Editor's Note: The following information was compiled by researcher Perry Stevens, formerly of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regarding the tobacco industry's marketing aimed at homosexuals.)

December 2001


Ads in national magazines like The Advocate, Out and Girlfriends

1992 - Benson & Hedges Special Kings ad in Genre was the first tobacco ad in a gay publication.

1994 - Benson & Hedges broadened the campaign to Out and other tobacco brands followed.

1994 - Virginia Slims targeted lesbians with carefully worded ads and sexually ambiguous imagery.

1995 - Parliament Light's "coded" ads appear in Out. They feature tradition male/female ads from Rolling Stone, Penthouse, Interview and other magazines were rendered sexually ambiguous by the computer graphic addition of a third person in the ads when they appeared in Out.

1999 - Top ad categories in gay newspapers: classified, bars and clubs, special events, HIV treatments, tobacco and alcohol. Top ad categories in Out magazine: tobacco, alcohol, HIV treatments, arrangements to sell life insurance (source: Mike Wilke, Gay Financial Network).


Advertising in mainstream magazines with high gay/lesbian readership. Also, ads in performance arts programs and publications, ads in alternative weekly newspapers.

A survey of readers of The Advocate and Out magazine found that subscribers other magazine picks included GQ, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, Time and Newsweek - all with heavy tobacco advertising. (source: Joe Landry, publisher of The Advocate and Out).

71% of gays attend live theater, compared to 21% of heterosexuals. Gays are five times more likely to attend a classical music concert and 4 times more likely to see a dance performance than straights. (source: March 1998, American Demographics magazine). Tobacco ads are pervasive throughout Playbills and other arts and exhibition programs.

Alternative weekly newspapers such as Creating Loafing in Atlanta, The Boston Phoenic, the NY Press and Seattle's The Stranger have a gay/lesbian readership estimated to be as high as 25% (source: Simmon's Market Research). Tobacco documents indicate that Benson & Hedges turned to alternative newspapers to market Special Kings after first advertising the new brand in Genre. The document (DOCID=2044361631 at recommended advertising the brand in alternative weeklies because the primarily young male readership fit the Special Kings audience of "hip, trendy, image/status conscience" young adult male smokers who are "into cloths, music, liquor and nightlife."


Tobacco companies sponsored 56 performing arts events and an organization, 44 AIDS events and organizations, 42 minority events and organizations and 24 visual arts events and organizations from 1995-1999. (source: Michael Siegel, Boston University School of Public Health). All these sponsorship categories have a high gay/lesbian interest - higher in most cases than the general public.

RJR sponsored the 1999 Miss Gay US of A pageant in Indianapolis.

Tobacco companies sponsored the gay/lesbian film festival in Atlanta in 2000.


In 1994, Philip Moris was the number one contributor to the Gay Men's Health Crisis ($150,000. RJR gave $50,000. (source: Gene Borio,

Philip Morris contributed more than $14 million to HIV/AIDS efforts in the US since 1986.

Philip Morris named lesbian activist Billie Jean King to its board of directors in 1999.

The Human Rights Campaign listing of Fortune 500 Companies nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation list Philip Morris at #9 and RJ Reynolds at #155.