For decades, the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes to communities of color, women, and other vulnerable populations. According to the most recent data from the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2015 Community Health Survey, 48% of NYC adults smokers use 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. This flavor also contributes to youth smoking initiation. The tobacco epidemic is far from over and significant disparities in tobacco use exists for far too many New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. NYC Smoke-Free is committed to building health equity and closing the gap in tobacco disparities to end the devastating tobacco epidemic.
On June 22nd, NYC Smoke-Free hosted a forum titled The Truth about Menthol: A Hazard in Our Communities at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. The forum featured opening remarks from Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, and an eye-opening keynote address from Dr. Phillip S. Gardiner – Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. Dr. Gardiner highlighted the negative impact menthol tobacco products have had on communities of color, youth and other vulnerable populations since the 1950’s. A very interesting panel discussion on the hazard of menthol followed the keynote address. Panelists included Truth Initiative’s VP of Campaigns, Community and Youth Engagement, Cianti Stewart-Reid, and CUNY student and Legislative Policy Associate at New York Public Interest Research Group, Smitha Varghese.
We also engaged several high school students active in NYC Smoke-Free’s Reality Check Program (and in collaboration with NYC Smoke-Free partners, Futures and Options) to create animated videos further illustrating the negative impact of mentholated tobacco products in vulnerable communities. The videos were debuted during the forum and shed light on the importance of the youth voice in addressing the tobacco epidemic in New York City.
Check out the amazing videos made by the students below. The following three animations were debuted during the forum!