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Report: Johnson & Johnson Targeted Minorities, Overweight Women With Baby Powder Ads Despite Growing Safety Concerns
A recent report shines a disturbing light on how Johnson & Johnson attempted to boost sales of its sagging baby powder product. Even though the evidence was mounting that the talc contained in the product was carcinogenic, the company targeted minorities and overweight women in advertising. Many people who were targeted are now suing the company, saying they developed cancer after using the baby powder.
Sales of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder had been declining for decades. The slide began in the 1950s after medical journals began to publish articles on the dangers of breathing in talc. By the 1970s, so many parents were concerned that they abandoned the product altogether.
J&J responded, according to the report, by focusing their advertising efforts on adults – specifically minorities and overweight women. The company worked to convince these groups that using talc-based products would help them feel clean and fresh throughout the day.
And the strategy worked. The report stated J&J internal memos in the early 1990s showed that African-Americans, as well as Hispanics, used baby powder at a high rate. As many as 52 percent of African-Americans and nearly 40 percent of Hispanics used the product.
Reaping What They Sew
While the advertising campaigns may have been a success, J&J is now facing the consequences of pushing a product it very likely knew could cause major health problems.
Thousands of women nationwide are suing the company. They allege they developed ovarian cancer due to the asbestos found in J&J talc-based products. These not only include baby powder but the company’s Shower-to-Shower product as well. One group of 22 plaintiffs won a nearly $5 billion verdict against J&J in a 2014 talcum powder lawsuit.