Program urges public to take action against unjust marketing and promotion of menthol cigarettes
A new statewide initiative aims to put a spotlight on how the tobacco industry has specifically targeted African American communities for decades with its aggressive marketing of menthol-flavored tobacco products. The “It’s Not Just” campaign launches regionally and statewide on No Menthol Sunday, May 16, and is focused on ending the misconception that menthol is just a flavor. It’s not just an injustice, it’s killing Black Americans.
Smoking-related illnesses are the No. 1 cause of death in the African American community, surpassing all other causes of death, including AIDS, homicide, diabetes and accidents.Overall, 85 percent of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to 29 percent of white smokers. The “It’s Not Just” campaign is intended to educate people across New York State about the injustice of menthol-flavored tobacco product marketing and promotion. The campaign uses direct language and powerful, emotional imagery of people who represent communities targeted by Big Tobacco. It describes how menthol is more than a flavor, highlighting hard-hitting facts about the manipulative, aggressive nature of menthol tobacco marketing and its impact on African American communities.
“Some of our communities have far more advertisements, product space and discounts for menthol cigarettes than others; this is an intentional tactic of the tobacco industry,” said Sue Casanova, community engagement coordinator, BRiDGES Tobacco Prevention Program.
Individuals can learn more about how to help fight the injustice of menthol-flavored tobacco products at the new campaign’s website: NotJustMenthol.org.
“With the recent FDA announcement to ban menthol-flavored tobacco products, this campaign couldn’t be more timely and relevant,” said LaTroya Hester, director of communications, The Center for Black Health & Equity. “We know that the tobacco industry will fight this decision with the full force of its legal and marketing power, but we’re not intimidated. The Center is excited about the launch of this campaign, and we are so honored to contribute to much-needed counter-messaging.”
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 a significant step toward reducing youth tobacco use. However, other flavored tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes, continue to present an obstacle to decreasing tobacco use among young people and underserved populations.
“The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting minority and low-income communities with tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that has resulted in tobacco-related health disparities in our communities,” said Eric Faisst, director, Madison County Health Department. “Reducing tobacco-related disparities is multifaceted and will take a coordinated effort on many fronts, including initiatives such as the statewide ‘It’s Not Just’ campaign. This campaign is an important next step in our efforts to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full health potential.”