Johnson & Johnson Targeted Black Women With Products Linked To Cancer

Johnson & Johnson Targeted Black Women With Products Linked To Cancer

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson &Johnson marketed its talcum-based powder products specifically to Black women despite evidence showing the products cause cancer, a new lawsuit alleges.

The complaint, filed by the National Council of Negro Women, asserts that the New Jersey-based drug company made Black women a “central part” of its business strategy but failed to warn them about the potential dangers of the powder products it was selling.

“This company, through its words and images, told Black women that we were offensive in our natural state and needed to use their products to stay fresh,” said Janice Mathis, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, in a statement.

“Generations of Black women believed them and made it our daily practice to use their products in ways that put us at risk of cancer — and we taught our daughters to do the same. Shame on Johnson and Johnson,” she said.

According to the lawsuit, an internal presentation from 2006, proposed that Johnson & Johnson sell their powder products, which had been behind in sales, to “high propensity consumers” like Black women. According to statistics, 60 per cent of Black women used baby powder at the time, compared to only 30 per cent of the overall population.

Johnson & Johnson later also hired a firm that handed out 100,000 gift bags containing powder products at churches and other locations in Chicago, launched a radio campaign in the Southern U.S. targeting “curvy southern women” and considered signing Patti LaBelle or Aretha Franklin as a spokesperson, among other efforts, the suit says.

This lawsuit is just the latest blow to Johnson & Johnson who have not been having the best year. The company announced earlier this month that five of its aerosol sunscreen products are being pulled off the shelf after some samples were discovered to contain low levels of benzene, a chemical that causes blood cancers such as leukemia. Also, the rollout of their COVID-19 vaccine faced production issues and was linked to a rare nerve syndrome. 

The company is facing more than 25,000 lawsuits related to the products and has set aside nearly $4 billion to fight the legal battles, according to The New York Times.


Written by Ruth Jane

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