06 | 22 | 2017

NYC Smoke-Free Forum on the Hazards of Menthol in Our Communities

NYC Smoke-Free Forum on the Hazards of Menthol in Our Communities
Lisa Jakobsberg
Phone: (718) 288-4862
NEW YORK, NY - According to current data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2015 Community Health Survey, 48% of NYC adult smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. The rates are even higher among African Americans, Latinos, and women. Menthol makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit, deceiving smokers by masking the harshness of the product.
Today NYC Smoke-Free, a program of Public Health Solutions, hosted a forum titled The Truth about Menthol: A Hazard in our Communities, in the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, to discuss menthol tobacco products and their devastating effects on communities of color, youth, women and other vulnerable populations. Speakers included Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Phillip Gardiner, PhD, Policy and Regulatory Sciences Program Officer for the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program at the University of California and Co-chair, of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Cianti Stewart-Reid, Vice President of Campaigns, Community and Youth Engagement, Truth Initiative.
Tobacco use remains the #1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 annually. In New York City, 12,000 residents die from a smoking-related illness every year. The forum provided an overview of how advocacy organizations are addressing menthol within the tobacco epidemic.
“Big Tobacco’s brazen marketing tactics had a lot to do with why I was a menthol smoker,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.  “It’s no secret that tobacco companies continue to target communities of color and children to hook them on a lifetime of nicotine addiction. As a former smoker, I know New Yorkers can see through these unscrupulous tactics and, with support, can and will quit smoking.”
“While overall cigarette smoking has been on a decline, menthol cigarette use has moved up and become a major public health issue that is having significant negative effects on specific populations including teenagers and African Americans,” says Lisa David, president and CEO of Public Health Solutions.  “The tobacco industry’s targeted marketing strategies to promote menthol products to vulnerable populations has only served to widen the gap in tobacco disparities.”
“Menthol cigarettes and the tobacco industry are the main killers of Black folks and through local ordinances we can begin to put a stop to it,” says Dr. Phillip S. Gardiner, DrPH, Co-Chair, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.
“Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. It’s no coincidence that rates among certain communities are higher – in fact it’s a result of the decades of targeting of these groups by Big Tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, to hook them on their deadly product,” says Stewart-Reid, VP of Campaigns, Community and Youth Engagement, Truth Initiative. “We need to hold them accountable. We are excited to turn up the volume and get even more people engaged in this movement. It’s profiling and we need it to stop happening.”
Public Health Solutions’ NYC Smoke-Free program is committed to building health equity and closing the gap in tobacco disparities to end the devastating tobacco epidemic. NYC Smoke-Free employs a two-pronged approach via youth action and community engagement, to utilize a community-based strategy that includes community education, community mobilization, government policy-maker education, and advocacy with organizational decision makers.
NYC Smoke-Free - a program of Public Health Solutions, NYC Smoke-Free works to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Formerly the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, we partner with community members, legislators, and health advocates to support local efforts to end the devastating tobacco epidemic throughout NYC. We believe every New Yorker has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work and play. For more information, visit us at www.NYCSmokeFree.org.
Public Health Solutions - As one of the largest public health service nonprofit organizations in New York City, Public Health Solutions improves health among the city’s most vulnerable populations by tackling social, physical, and environmental factors that impact New Yorkers’ ability to thrive. Today PHS serves 200,000+ New Yorkers annually, and we support the work of more than 600 community-based nonprofit organizations. We implement innovative, cost-effective population-based health programs; conduct research providing insight on effective public health interventions; and provide services to government and other nonprofits to address public health issues. Together with our colleagues in the service sector, government, philanthropy and policy organizations, we are thought leaders and cutting-edge public health professionals in New York City and New York State. To learn more, please visit us at www.healthsolutions.org.