Museum program to look at how tobacco advertising created health disparities

Melanie Zuercher
Special to the Kansan

Over the past century, and even earlier, large tobacco companies have enabled health disparities through the marketing of their addictive, and potentially fatal, products.

This vintage Lucky Strikes add will be part of Healthy Harvey program looking at how tobacco advertising created health disparities.

That’s the premise of the next Sunday-Afternoon-from-the-Museum program sponsored by Kauffman Museum (located on the Bethel campus), Aug. 29 at 3 p.m., via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Lorrie Kessler, an employee of the Harvey County Health Department who coordinates the Healthy Harvey Coalition, will speak on “Disparities in tobacco marketing and use: A historical look at how tobacco was marketed and to whom.”

The program is planned to complement the current special exhibit, “Vapes: Marketing an Addiction,” at the museum through early January 2022.

To attend, go to, the Kauffman Museum Facebook page, or the “Visit” tab (click “Events”) at, at 3 p.m. on Aug. 29.

 “In public health,” Kessler said, “we define ‘disparities’ as ‘preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health,’ according to the CDC.”

Disparity can be attributed to income or employment, education, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, or any number of other “social drivers” of health in society, she continued.

“‘Preventable’ is the key term. Unfortunately, what can be prevented can also be enabled.

“Most of the advertising, the conventional advertising at least, is publicly available – but so are the documents detailing why and to whom the tobacco companies marketed their product.”

The “Truth Tobacco Industry Documents” are housed at the University of California-San Francisco, available to the public through “an easily accessible, if overwhelming, website.”

Lori Kessler will lead a Kauffman Museum program  considering how tobacco advertising created health disparities.

Kessler’s Aug. 29 presentation will look at tobacco advertising and the reasons behind it.

It will span “ads with ‘doctors’ who say Lucky Strikes are less irritating to your throat, to advising women to pick up a cigarette instead of a snack to maintain their slim figure, to ‘You’ve come a long way, baby’ [for Virginia Slims], to the Kool Jazz Festival, all the way to social media campaigns targeting teenagers for JUUL [e-cigarettes], product sampling and movie placements.”

The presentation will examine how this marketing has impacted the health of generations of Americans.

Kessler graduated from Wichita State University with bachelor’s degrees in history and anthropology, and then took a large sidestep into public health via mentoring.

An alumna of the McNair Scholars Program (part of the U.S. Department of Education TRIO programs), Kessler began working in youth substance abuse prevention and coalition development while in graduate school, and found her calling.

She was a certified substance abuse prevention specialist with Regional Prevention Center of South Central Kansas at Mirror Inc. for 10 years before joining the Harvey County Health Department as the chronic disease risk reduction coordinator in 2014.

She soon added Healthy Harvey Coalition coordinator to her job duties. She also oversees the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas Initiative in Harvey County.

For more information on “Vapes,” associated public programs and current COVID protocols, visit or Kauffman Museum’s Facebook page, e-mail or call 316-283-1612.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6.