For well over a decade, countless African Americans have prematurely perished from tobacco- related illness as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inexplicably dithered on the need to take meaningful action on menthol cigarettes. In fact, prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes is the boldest, most significant move the FDA can make to positively impact the nation’s health—period.
The disproportionate impact of tobacco use on African Americans is indisputable. Tobacco use contributes to the three leading causes of death among African Americans: heart disease, cancer and stroke. Blacks smoke fewer cigarettes on average and start smoking later than whites, yet are more likely to die of tobacco-related diseases. Compared to our white counterparts, African Americans are generally at higher risk for COVID-19 infections, heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Research indicates that social and political implications are the primary causes of many of the aforementioned health conditions.
The Center for Black Health and Equity is proud to have been a leader in this movement through education, convenings, and strategic partnerships. We’ve employed innovative tools via our Black Body Health Podcast, the State of Black Health Conference, and No Menthol Sunday as a means to reach large audiences and supercharge the movement. We are also leading efforts to engage the Congressional Black Caucus, and to have them well equipped to reject the influence of Big Tobacco and take a stance on menthol.
We are proud of our work and will continue to support grassroots efforts across the country in getting menthol out of our communities regardless of the FDA’s ruling. But we hope they will do the right thing and ban menthol.
Delmonte Jefferson Executive Director Center for Black Health and Equity