The Center for Black Health and Equity

Press release:

A new statewide initiative aims to shine a light on how the tobacco industry has specifically targeted African American communities for decades with its aggressive marketing of menthol-flavored tobacco products.

The campaign “It’s not fair” is launched at regional and national levels on No menthol Sunday – today May 16 – and aims to end the misconception that menthol is just a flavor.

It’s not just a flavor – it’s an injustice, and it’s killing black Americans.

Smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of death in the African American community, surpassing all other causes of death, including AIDS, homicide, diabetes and accidents. Overall, 85% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to 29% of white smokers.

The “It’s Not Fair” campaign aims to educate people in New York State about the unfairness of marketing and promoting menthol flavored products. The campaign uses direct language and powerful, emotional images of people representing communities targeted by Big Tobacco.

He describes how menthol is more than a flavor, highlighting hard-hitting facts about the manipulative and aggressive nature of menthol tobacco marketing and its impact on African American communities.

“It is no coincidence that nearly 9 out of 10 black smokers, as well as rural youth, use menthol-based products, which are easier to smoke and more difficult to quit,” said Julie Calvert, coordinator of Tobacco-Free GOW’s community engagement.

“Our goal is to educate members of our community about how the tobacco industry is aggressively targeting these groups so that we can reduce smoking and create healthier communities.

Individuals can read more about how to tackle the injustice of menthol-flavored tobacco products on the new campaign’s website: NotJustMenthol.org.

“With the recent FDA announcement to ban menthol-flavored products, this campaign couldn’t be more timely and relevant,” said LaTroya Hester, director of communications, The Center for Black Health & Equity.

“We know the tobacco industry will fight this decision with all the force of their legal and commercial power, but we are not intimidated. The Center is excited about the launch of this campaign and we are very honored to contribute the much needed counter message. “

While the tobacco industry has traditionally targeted black communities with the marketing of menthol products, menthol is also a driver of youth initiation.

When New York State ended the sale of flavored e-cigarettes statewide in May 2020, it was an important step towards reducing smoking among young people. However, other flavored tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes, continue to be a barrier to reducing tobacco use among youth and underserved populations.

Additional statistics:

  • Menthol marketing
    • The consumption of menthol in black communities is a direct result of the marketing practices and handling of tobacco industry products.
    • Historically, the marketing and promotion of menthol cigarettes has been heavily targeted at African Americans through culturally relevant advertisements and messaging.
    • Menthol products have more shelf space at retail outlets within African American and other minority neighborhoods.
    • Besides being heavily advertised and widely available, some tobacco products have proven to be cheaper in African American communities, making them more appealing, especially to price-sensitive youth.
  • Use of menthol
    • Ninety-three percent of black smokers started using menthol cigarettes.
    • More than seven in 10 African American youth aged 12 to 17 who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
    • Research indicates that menthol makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit.
    • Tobacco companies add menthol to make cigarettes less harsh and more attractive to new smokers and young people.
    • Tobacco manufacturers market menthol cigarettes as being “smoother” than other cigarettes.
    • The menthol in cigarettes creates a cooling sensation in the throat and airways when the user inhales.
  • Health impact
    • Menthol cigarettes are no less harmful than other cigarettes, and the United States Food and Drug Administration has found that they likely pose a greater risk to public health than non-menthol cigarettes.
    • Black smokers smoke less but die of heart attacks, strokes, and other smoking-related causes at higher rates than white smokers.

Assistance available for New Yorkers wishing to leave

For help quitting smoking or vaping, including free nicotine replacement therapy for eligible residents, people can contact a health care provider and call the smoker’s stop line. ” New York State at 1-866-NY-QUITS or visit: nysmokefree.com.

Medicines and effective counseling are covered by Medicaid and most insurance programs.

The New York State Tobacco Free and Reality Check student groups have worked tirelessly to educate local communities on the use of menthol and other flavored tobacco products by the tobacco industry such as tool to target, attract and depend on new smokers. The Tobacco Free New York State, including Reality Check Youth Student Groups, is part of the NYS Tobacco Control Program.

About Tobacco-Free GOW

The New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control, funds the Tobacco-Free GOW program to increase support for New York State’s tobacco-free standard through youth action and community engagement. The efforts are evidence-based, policy-based, and cost-effective approaches that reduce youth smoking, encourage adult smokers to quit, and eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke. The program is administered by the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.


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