SCUM Project

Project SCUM was a plan proposed in 1995 by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) to sell cigarettes to members of the ” alternative lifestyle ” areas of San Francisco, in particular the large number of gay people in the Castroand homeless people in the Tenderloin . The acronym “SCUM” stood for “subculture urban marketing.” Perhaps recognizing the offensive nature of its label, the marketing plan was later renamed Project Sourdough . [1]

An anti-smoking campaign called Truth targeted RJ Reynolds for Project SCUM, arguing that it does not show the usual exploitative tobacco marketing techniques. SF Weekly reported:

“This is a crime, plain and simple,” says Kathleen DeBold, who reports to the Washington, DC-based Mautner Project for Lesbians With Cancer. “What else do you call when you think gays and lesbians like ‘scum,’ and then targets with something that kills?”

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who represents the Tenderloin District, is also upset. “It’s racist, it’s classist, it’s oppressive, and it’s really disheartening to hear.But I can not say that I’m surprised.” Low-income communities and people of color companies feel like they can make money off other people’s misery. ” [2]

Project SCUM documents came to light after RJ Reynolds to hand over the State of California litigation against tobacco companies. RJ Reynolds’ marketing in the 1990s of its Camel and Winston cigarette brands drew the attention of attorneys representing California cities and counties. SCUM Project highlighted how tobacco companies in the 1990s were targeting young adults to be lifetime smokers. [3]

Revelations about Project SCUM were among the mountains of evidence that would continue to be anti-tobacco litigation. In 1998, a resolution of the litigation came about in the Master Settlement Agreement between more than 40 state attorneys general and the tobacco industry.

See also

  • “Truth” ad campaign
  • Master Settlement Agreement
  • American Legacy Foundation


  1. Jump up^ Anne Landman,Project Scum, original Project Scum document with images, Tobacco Documents Online
  2. Jump up^ San Francisco – News – Smoking Gun
  3. Jump up^ Multi-State Tobacco Litigation –