Leaders from the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) wrote a letter to President Obama to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including mentholated products. This crusade to wipe out the key ingredient in Kools and Newports protects Black smokers, younger ones especially. According to various studies, mentholated tobacco is heavily preferred by Black people.
“This letter is not a citizen petition, but a personal plea from us to you to get your administration to provide substantive relief from the tobacco related suffering we are experiencing within our community. Though other pressing issues may be diverting our attention, our community’s addiction to nicotine continues to kill more Black people than AIDS, violence, car accidents, and non-tobacco related cancers combined,” the AATCLC writes.
Dr. Phillip Gardner, AATCLC co-chairman, said that menthol targets our Black youth and keeps our elders from quitting this bad habit.
“It has been well documented that mentholated cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products are responsible for the initiation of smoking among our youth, as well as the difficulty in quitting among established smokers.”
This call-to-action also proposes for ban of sale on all flavored tobacco products found in popular items such as cigarillos, little cigars and e-cigarettes. The stages for this were set by the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on all fruit and candy flavored cigarettes in 2009. This ban came about because it appealed greatly to a younger audience. The report said, “Flavors make cigarettes and other tobacco products more appealing to youth. Studies have shown that 17 year old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes as smokers over the age of 25.”
Menthol does the exact same thing according to the AATCLC. A new study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 66 percent of all Black youth smokers ages 12-17 prefer Newport menthols, while 75 percent of all Black smokers ages 18-25 prefer Newport menthols. According to the AATCLC’s letter to President Obama this will save the lives of 45,000 Black people a year. The American Lung Association says that Black people are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than Whites.
The AATCLC’s letter to President Obama also had a social justice spin to it. It called out the tobacco industry for its predatory behavior against Black communities.
“Furthermore, tobacco companies have historically and effectively targeted Black communities with highly concentrated, specialized menthol cigarette marketing campaigns. These campaigns included manipulation of our leadership groups, targeted media advertising, and the free distribution of mentholated cigarettes to inner city children. To add insult to injury, numerous studies show that mentholated cigarettes are cheaper in poor, inner city Black communities.”
This statement seems to be highly consistent with reports. Dave Goerlitz, former model known as the “Winston Man” from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco advertisements, said in a New York Times article that when he asked an executive from the company if they smoked the executive had this to say:
“Are you kidding?” he asked. “We reserve that right for the poor, the young, the black and the stupid.”