Shameless Hypocrisy: Altria’s… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

Shameless Hypocrisy: Altria’s Donation Cannot Hide the Enormous Harm It Has Done to African Americans with Menthol Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 05, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With its announcement today of a $5 million donation to African-American organizations, Marlboro-maker Altria is once again trying to divert attention away from the enormous harm it has done and continues to do to the health of African Americans with the targeted, decades-long marketing of menthol cigarettes. This is even more outrageous as African Americans are suffering so disproportionately from the deadly consequences of COVID-19 and smoking can increase the severity of the disease.

This donation pales in comparison to the billions Altria spends to market menthol cigarettes to youth and the African-American community and the billions more they’ve pocketed from the sale of menthols – much of it from African Americans who become sick and die as a result. It continues the tobacco industry’s long history of using charitable donations to divert attention from their deadly products and predatory marketing, to silence advocates from the very communities that suffer the most from Altria’s targeting, and to win allies who can help them fight against the adoption of life-saving public health policies. To protect the health of African Americans, policy makers must stand up to Altria and other tobacco companies and end the sale of menthol cigarettes.

Altria’s donation cannot hide the truth: Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among African Americans, who suffer and die at high rates from tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and emphysema; and Altria has been one of the most successful companies in marketing and selling cigarettes to African Americans. Altria subsidiary Philip Morris has long recognized the importance of marketing menthol to young African Americans, once stating, “Young blacks have found their thing, and it’s menthol.”

No amount of “support” can erase the devastation Altria's products have wrought on the very communities they now claim to stand behind.