Tobacco-Free Kids Announces a… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

Tobacco-Free Kids Announces a Heightened Focus to Address Tobacco Industry’s Targeting of the Black Community and Related Health Disparities

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
February 08, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As our nation confronts a multitude of serious challenges, including a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Black Americans and other people of color, the issue of racial health disparities has come into even sharper relief. For more than 60 years, the tobacco industry has exacerbated the problem by deliberately targeting the Black community with menthol cigarettes, which are more addictive, easier for kids to start using and harder for smokers to quit than other cigarettes.

The tobacco industry has profited enormously, while destroying Black lives and health. In the 1950s, less than 10% of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes. Today, 85% of Black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death among Black Americans. It claims 45,000 Black lives each year, and Black Americans die at higher rates than other groups from tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. 

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is committed to confronting the tobacco industry’s deadly targeting of Black and other communities and addressing related health disparities with utmost urgency and purpose. 

To address these challenges, we are increasing our efforts to educate, empower and engage Black youth to ensure they are aware not only of the risks of tobacco use, but also the exploitative tactics employed by Big Tobacco. We are also committed to working with external partners to make sure they have the necessary tools and resources to reach their constituencies and members.

In an effort to bring more attention to health disparities that have had a devastating impact on Black communities across the country, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is excited to announce a new series of educational events and other activities that will be launched this month during Black History Month. These include:

  • Our Campaign for the Culture Initiative focuses on uniting, empowering, educating and engaging people of color and other targeted communities around critical healthcare and human rights issues connected to tobacco use in marginalized communities, with the goal of inspiring young community members to avoid or quit tobacco use. The first conversation will take place on Wednesday, February 24th from 7:00 to 8:00 PM EST and focus on the topic of Intergenerational Tobacco Use and Its Cultural Impact on Black Communities. Participants will also discuss the impact of the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing to Black Americans. This is the launch of our comprehensive initiative, which includes a cultural conversations series, HBCU listening tour, virtual summit, dinner series and advocate profiles.

  • The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is also excited to announce a new partnership with The Links, Incorporated, one of America’s preeminent organizations of African American women who are devoted to strengthening African American communities through fundraising, education, advocacy and volunteering.

  • We will also be developing a series of reports and other materials that highlight disparities in who uses and is sickened and killed by tobacco products, the tobacco industry’s ongoing targeting of Black Americans and other populations, and the policies and programs needed to address these challenges.

We must end the tobacco industry’s exploitation of Black lives for profit by eliminating flavored tobacco products, especially menthol cigarettes, and address other systemic causes of health disparities, including poverty and a lack of access to affordable healthcare. We are committed to supporting and empowering communities of color, while taking action to stop the tobacco industry’s predatory practices.