Project BHM

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Project BHM was an internal R.J. Reynolds (RJR) marketing plan circa 1983 to boost sales of Winston cigarettes to Hispanics in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and the North Atlantic states. The acronym "BHM" stands for "Black, Hispanic and Military," reflecting that the purpose of the overall BHM plan was to increase marketing of cigarettes to all of these groups.

A marketing document about Project BHM reveals that RJR tremendously increased the amount of free cigarette samples given away in the Hispanic market from 1982-83 (from 200,000 to 700,000). To further increase the attractiveness of the product, "B1G1F [buy one, get one free] Hispanic image/event coupons" were included with all of the free samples.

A "major marketing strategy" used in Project BHM was for RJR to "become meaningful and highly visible contributors to the Hispanic community." Other strategies included fostering key contacts within Hispanic organizations and sponsoring an increasing number of Hispanic fiestas and sporting events. RJR targeted 18-24 year old male Hispanic smokers for these promotions.

The 35 page document about BHM shows in detail how RJR sought to depict Hispanics in advertising [from Page 33 of the document]:

"--Clearly address Hispanic ethnicity by depicting darker, olive skin tones and avoid lighter skinned 'Anglo' models.

--Employ facial features common to all Hispanic subgroups,

--Hair that is naturally wavy should be used as it is accepted by all Hispanic subgroups. Longer hair on females is preferred by men and women alike, and light hair is not accepted.

--Facial hair should be restricted to mustaches only and is desirable on some male models as it reinforces Hispanic perceptions of maturity and masculinity...

--Men should be portrayed as equals, but clearly be 'cut-above' supervisor types."

--Care needs to be employed in ensuring that Hispanic males are not too 'close' to one another as Hispanics react negatively to encroachment of personal space (homosexual)."


The 1982 U.S. Surgeon General's report (the year before this document was written) was entitled, The Health Consequences of Smoking - Cancer: A Report of the Surgeon General. The report said "Cigarette smoking is the major single cause of cancer mortality in the United States...cigarette smokers have total cancer death rates two times greater than do nonsmokers." [Page 4, in the Forward.]. Thus RJR must have been fully aware at that time that they were increasing promotion to Hispanics of a product known to be harmful.Project BHM Marketing Plan, 1983, R.J. Reynolds