The Menthol Issue
We fight against the marketing and sale of deadly tobacco products to African Americans. The tobacco industry saturates Black neighborhoods with menthol ads and discounts. They buy off Black elected officials and even Black culture --all to promote their deadly products. Citizens and public health advocates must stand against this kind of predatory marketing.
Tobacco-related illness is still the primary cause of death for African Americans. For decades, The Center of Black Health & Equity has fought against the marketing and sale of deadly tobacco products to African Americans. It is commonly known that menthol makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit. This is no exception for African Americans who consistently report more quitting attempts than the general smoking population, yet experience lower success rates. Because more than 85% of African American smokers prefer menthols (as compared to 30% of Caucasian smokers), we have given particular attention to the elimination of mentholated tobacco products.
The tobacco industry has executed a calculated, menthol-centered strategy to establish a strong presence in African American communities, appropriate African American culture, and create a dependency on tobacco funding. As such, the predominant use of menthols among African American smokers is well documented among public health authorities. However, we have observed the way in which tobacco control advocates have negotiated to exclude menthol as a means to protect other demographics from the harms of candy-flavored tobacco. We consider this to be counterproductive and an affront to the integrity of public health efforts. Further, we consider this to be reflective of historical racism.
African American populations have been disregarded as casualties of corporate profits and tobacco policy quick-wins.
In order to address this social justice issue, The Center for Black Health & Equity is committed to:
Challenging the tobacco industry’s infiltration into African American communities
Promoting innovative, culturally competent cessation programs
Educating community decision-makers on effective strategies for enacting comprehensive tobacco-free policies. Most importantly, the issue of menthol must be viewed through the lens of racial equality and addressed through the work of restorative justice.