While Black history should be accurately taught and celebrated every day, Black History Month is a perfect time to spotlight the fact that smoking is a social justice issue as well as a global health concern. The Tobacco industry has a well-documented record of target marketing to marginalized communities. “These tactics have serious consequences. African Americans have higher death rates from tobacco-related causes compared to other racial and ethnic groups – with more than 39,000 dying from tobacco-related cancers each year,” according to Truth.com.
“We don’t smoke this shit, we just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the Black, and the stupid.” That’s just one tobacco industry executive quote that can be found in the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents library. It bluntly conveys the contempt and disregard the industry has for the people whose addiction fills their coffers.
Didn’t “Just Happen”
Following World War II tobacco industry leaders – noting that smoking among Blacks was comparatively low – launched an intentional, calculated marketing push. We all know by now that the tobacco industry is good at what it does. The results of their efforts are painfully and sadly evident today. That marketing push continues today and leaves an inordinate amount of Black suffering and a disproportionate number of Black bodies bodies in it’s wake.
This video is the creation of Lincoln Mondy and should be viewed by everyone! I haven’t smoked for decades, but this makes me regret (even more) every nickel I ever gave to that evil empire. Seeing tobacco use as a social justice issue gives one more reason to want to terminate our complicated relationship with tobacco. PLEASE WATCH AND SHARE THIS VIDEO!
Menthol is more than just a flavor. Menthol complicates a smoker’s relationship with tobacco/nicotine in harmful ways. The anesthetic and counterirritant effect of menthol means that I can take a deeper drag. The numbing effect quiets the irritation that smoking would normally cause. That deeper puff means more soot in my lungs, which explains in part why menthol smokers suffer greater negative health consequences. That deeper puff also means more nicotine in my brain, which can result in a tougher addiction to kick. Menthol is one reason why Black smokers can smoke less and suffer more than some other smokers.
It Continues Today
While this targeting began over 70 years ago, it continues today! In some predominantly Black DC neighborhoods there were up to ten times more tobacco ads than in areas with fewer Black residents. (See the research here.) Tobacco industry lobbyists spend billions of dollars at the federal level and more at the individual state level. And even more industry dollars go to Black organizations to attempt to buy favor (as seen in the video.)
NOTE: Vaping industry giant, JUUL (partly owned by the biggest player in the tobacco industry – Altria) is following in their footsteps. JUUL funds programs targeted at children as young as third graders. Their financial support of summer camps and after school programs that give them access to Black youth is well-documented and was one of the concerns discussed in Congressional Hearings on JUUL’s role in the youth e-cigarette epidemic.
I have countless times reminded myself and others that holding on to anger can be hazardous to your peace of mind. (It’s probably not good for your blood pressure either, but I’m not a doctor.) BUT I believe that sometimes anger can be useful. Anger can be motivating under the right circumstances. I’ve been aware of tobacco industry targeting of Blacks and other marginalized groups for many years. But this video made feel sad again, mad again, and glad again. The first two feelings are predictable. But if you are still actively using tobacco, do what you feel the need to do for now. I’m not your judge and there is no shame in having fallen into the trap that tobacco set for all of us. But as soon as you can, plan your escape from tobacco’s grip. When you do, you will become healthier, wealthier, and glad that your dollars are no longer funding the evil empire.
Whenever you’re ready, we are too! Be in touch if we can support your efforts with text messages, phone-coaching, weekly groups, and web resources. You deserve to be free!