Big Tobacco has targeted African Americans with flavored tobacco for five decades.

Because Black lives matter, we must confront one of the leading killers of African Americans: flavored tobacco.

The Chicago City Council is considering an ordinance to ban the sale of products like chocolate cigarillos and strawberry blast e-cigarettes that attract youth more than traditional tobacco flavor. Passing it would be a big step toward racial equity.

Big Tobacco has targeted African Americans with flavored tobacco for five decades. Newport, for instance, has put advertisements, free samples and coupons for menthol-flavored products in Black neighborhoods. Menthol cigarettes — now the main product used by Black smokers — are especially addictive and hard to quit.

African Americans must take back our health from an industry that has taken so much from us.

To be sure, Black youth aren’t the only ones getting hooked. Vaping and other tobacco use is soaring among young people across the board — with most saying “fun flavors” are why they started. Black youth are especially likely to start with menthol products.

We cannot lose another generation to Big Tobacco’s predatory practices.

Efforts to improve Black health are particularly important given the devastating impact of COVID-19. African Americans are dying at higher rates due in part to underlying chronic diseases — which, more than anything, are caused by tobacco.

In Chicago, there’s a nine-year life expectancy gap between Black and white residents. Tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer account for two years of that gap. To advance equity, Chicago must quit flavored tobacco.

Read full article here.

Michael Hart – Letter to Editor – Chicago Sun Times – June 26, 2020.

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