What does it take to entice a teenager in Senegal to light up a cigarette and inhale? Whatever it is, Anna White wants to know. White, AS '97, learned just before she graduated in May, that she had been awarded a Fulbright grant to spend nine months in Se negal researching the techniques tobacco companies use to lure the Senegalese into smoking.
The Fulbright Program was established by Congress to increase understanding between the people of the U.S. and of other countries. Each year, some 4,000 grants are awarded to students, teachers and scholars to study, teach and conduct research around the world.
"I'll be traveling all over Senegal and documenting how cigarettes are marketed throughout the country. What I'm mainly interested in is the cultural context these companies use in cigarette marketing," White says.
She'll be based in Dakar, the capital city, where she will have access to government and industry records that will tell her how many cigarettes were sold before a certain advertising campaign and how many were sold after. White says she'll combine that k ind of information with interviews with people who smoke, focus groups, surveys, interviews with government and tobacco company officials. She'll also be taking pictures of billboards and at sporting and musical events, which she says are often sponsored by tobacco companies and inundated with their logos, billboards and giveaways.
"In all of their ads, they play up the Western image because most [Senegalese] want to look and live like us. It's not because they don't know about lung cancer. They are smoking because of psychological and cultural reasons," White says. She is determine d to find out what those reasons are and give that information to anti-smoking and government organizations in Senegal to produce anti-smoking advertising and education campaigns.
White leaves for Senegal in November.