NAACP-Oneonta Event Highlights  Menthol’s Deadly Impact on African Americans’ Health
By Jennifer Hill

In collaboration with Oneonta’s NAACP chapter, Tobacco Free Communities: Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie (TFC-DOS) staff presented Black Lives/Black Lungs, a short documentary which critically examines the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing of menthol cigarettes to African Americans and its deadly effects, at the NAACP’s May 13th virtual meeting, followed by a discussion about the film. Since the tobacco industry launched its decades-long marketing campaign, almost 90% of African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes and approximately 45,000 of Black Americans die of tobacco-related diseases annually. Half of all youth smokers start smoking with menthol cigarettes. 

The two organizations held the event just weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would start the rulemaking process for banning menthol-flavored cigarettes and just days before No Menthol Sunday, an annual, nationwide call for faith-based organizations to make their members aware of menthol-flavored tobacco products’ deadly impact.

“We are having local conversations about the dangers of menthol, especially with African Americans in our area, because menthol cigarettes have been targeted to and are disproportionately killing Black Americans,” said Jennifer Hill, TFC-DOS Community Engagement Coordinator. 

Chris Bradley, TFC-DOS’ Youth Engagement Coordinator, co-hosted the presentation with Hill, sharing information on the impact of menthol-flavored cigarettes on youth.

“More than half of youth smokers smoke menthol, and for African American youth smokers, it’s 70 percent,” Bradley said. “Menthol makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit.”

NAACP-Oneonta invited TFC-DOS to do the presentation after Hill, a member of the organization, spoke at previous meetings about the adverse health impact of menthol-flavored tobacco use, why it has become a social justice and health equity issue, and the aggressive marketing of menthol and flavored tobacco products to youth.

“The NAACP national leadership and our chapter organization have long been very concerned about menthol-flavored tobacco,” said Lee Fisher, President of NAACP-Oneonta. “We know it doesn’t only impact people of color, but it has a profound effect on youth nationwide.”

Hill said she and Bradley showed Black Lives/Black Lungs both because it powerfully presents the history and facts of the tobacco industry’s African Americanization of the menthol cigarette and it spotlights young adult advocates joining the campaign to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.

“Lincoln Mondy was an intern with Truth Initiative when he made Black Lives/Black Lungs,” Hill said. “He and the other young adult advocates saw family members get sick and die of tobacco-related diseases. They are determined to not let more people of color die from smoking menthol.”

To become involved with TFC-DOS’s youth engagement program, click here or email 
To become involved with creating tobacco-free communities in Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie counties, click here or email
To watch Black Lives/Black Lungs, click here