Tobacco companies and higher education

Even though smoking tobacco products is banned in public places such as restaurants, bars and public airwaves, it is still accepted by the majority of the country’s colleges.

Tobacco companies obviously have focused on higher education connections as one method of getting two key markets: teenagers and blacks.

Marlboro Cigarettes Logo

Marlboro Red cigarettes

Altria, which is the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes, the top-selling cigarette brand in the United States, is a good example.

Execs and directors of the famous tobacco company collaborated with the United Negro College Fund, Howard University, the University of Richmond and other institutions.

Altria also gives huge amounts of money to colleges around the nation. Its list of 2012 grantees contains over 50 colleges, college-related foundations and scholarship funds.

Altria director John T. Casteen III is Virginia’s former education secretary, a director of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education and former president of the University of Virginia, which obtained a $26 million gift from the cigarette maker.


College officials who hold board posts with cigarette producers reap some benefits personally, as well. Casteen’s pay package from Altria exceeded $275,000 in 2012. Other million-dollar-plus recipients of Altria’s largesse recently include Virginia Commonwealth University and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Philanthropy, whether it’s through grants or underwriting of the Altria College Opportunity Fund scholarship program, can be considered as an alternate advertising base for Altria, making it possible for the company to publish press releases with headlines such as: “Altria to Help Make Future Brighter for Richmond Public Schools Seniors.” The Virginia-based tobacco company, the maker of L&M and Red&White cigarettes, isn’t the only company creating educational ties. The map below provides connections of Reynolds American and Lorillard:

Regardless of the tobacco companies’ initiatives, more colleges are banning smoking. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights indicates that no less than 1,159 colleges now have non-smoking policies, in contrast to 530 campuses two years back.

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