GHEA invited Michael Scott from The Center for Black Health & Equity to present at CADCA’s 31st Annual National Leadership Forum. Michael’s presentation, “Banning Menthol and Other Flavored Tobacco: Now is the Time!” provides an overview of how Big Tobacco continues to target menthol/flavored tobacco to African American and other priority populations. The session also describes current efforts supporting menthol bans and how to counter arguments against menthol/flavor bans. We are delighted to share the recording from this informative session with you along with Michael’s accompanying article below and hope this can support your efforts in initiating or supporting menthol flavor bans in your own community.

Banning Menthol and Other Flavored Tobacco

In commercial tobacco control, it has been well researched and documented that flavored tobacco products have been used to attract new smokers. When it comes to flavored commercial tobacco, particularly menthol, we see disparate levels of use among populations already suffering from health inequities, such as African Americans, LGBTQ+ and those with lower socioeconomic/educational status to name a few. This is not coincidence. The tobacco industry has targeted these populations (as well as youth) for years with predatory, targeted marketing. While flavored cigarettes were banned in 2009, menthol was exempted and remained available, continuing to addict a new generation of smokers.

After pushback from tobacco control proponents, The FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee eventually released a menthol report on March 19, 2011 that stated “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”  While there was support, there was a chorus of opposition. The Center for Black Health & Equity has been fighting for menthol restrictions since its inception two decades ago. We have had to constantly push back against the false narratives the opposition and the tobacco industry claim will result from menthol and other flavor restrictions. We combat these scare tactics with well researched data and pro-health messaging.

While the FDA has recently announced its intent to ban menthol flavored cigarettes and all flavored cigars, we know the process will take some time. In the meantime, organizations including The Center for Black Health & Equity and The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, will continue to promote and support local level menthol and flavor restrictions. Community level support and implementation is what brought to fruition the first successful flavored tobacco sales restrictions (including menthol) in the city of Chicago. We hope by continuing to promote menthol restrictions at the local level, the federal law will continue to garner support as well.

This presentation merely scratches the surface of targeted marketing, the impact of menthol and how community support plays a role. It is intended to provide a brief historical context of menthol flavored cigarettes and the disparate impact they have on specific communities. More in-depth trainings are available by contacting The Center for Black Health & Equity.

Session Objectives

  1. Identify a minimum of three examples of how the tobacco industry targets African American and other priority populations with menthol and flavored tobacco products
  2. Understand the importance of using pro-health messaging to counter Big Tobacco’s campaign against flavor bans
  3. Identify and understand the steps to building community coalition support for menthol/flavored tobacco bans

Additional Resources