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Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to Honor NAACP President Derrick Johnson for His Leadership Fighting Menthol Cigarettes and Protecting our Nation’s Children from Tobacco

April 16, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will present Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, with its highest honor, the Champion Award, for his unyielding leadership in working to eliminate menthol cigarettes and end the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing to kids, Black Americans and other communities. Each year, the Champion Award recognizes an individual who has made the most significant contribution to reducing tobacco use and its devastating consequences.

President Johnson will be honored at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual Youth Advocates of the Year Awards celebration on May 9, 2024, at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Tobacco-Free Kids will also honor its Youth Advocates of Year, young leaders working to create the first tobacco-free generation, and emerging public health leaders from around the world.

President Johnson and the NAACP have worked tirelessly to support the FDA’s proposed rules to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, speaking out against the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing and providing a powerful voice of support for the rules to the Biden Administration, Congress, the media and the public. NAACP state conferences across the country have also supported state and local efforts to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products.

When the Biden Administration signaled a delay in issuing the FDA’s final menthol rule in December, President Johnson called on the Administration to “put people above profit” and to “stay focused on the main issue here – and that’s the health of the African American community.” He also denounced the “lobbyists of the tobacco industry and those that they have paid to carry a bad, false message” against the menthol rule.

“Derrick Johnson and the NAACP have been instrumental in the effort to finally eliminate menthol cigarettes and end the tobacco industry’s deadly targeting of Black communities and kids,” said Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “He has provided a voice of moral clarity by standing up to the tobacco industry and reminding the Biden Administration of its obligation to improve health and save lives in the Black community. We are thrilled to honor him for his courage and leadership.”

“It is my distinct pleasure to receive Tobacco-Free Kids’ highest honor,” President Johnson said. “As a leading cause of death for Black Americans, the banning of menthol tobacco products remains a top priority for the NAACP. It is continued partnerships like this that will carry us forward, ensuring a healthier and more equitable society for all.”

The scientific evidence shows that menthol cigarettes are more addictive, easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. For decades, the tobacco industry has relentlessly marketed these products to Black communities, causing devastating and disproportionate harm to the health of Black Americans. Research shows that prohibiting menthol cigarettes will save up to 654,000 lives within 40 years, including the lives of 255,000 Black Americans.

Derrick Johnson (NAACP bio) has served as President and CEO of the NAACP since October 2017. He formerly served as vice chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, as well as state president for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP. A longstanding member and leader of the NAACP, Mr. Johnson has helped guide the Association through a period of re-envisioning and reinvigoration.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is the leading advocacy organization working to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences in the United States and around the world. Through strategic communications and policy advocacy campaigns, we promote the adoption of evidence-based policies that are most effective at reducing tobacco use and save the most lives. Our Global Health Advocacy Incubator builds on the successes and lessons learned in the fight against tobacco to support civil society organizations working to tackle other critical public health challenges across the globe.