CDC says Black Americans targeted by makers of menthol cigarettes
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the tobacco industry is targeting Black Americans with menthol cigarette marketing through advertising, giveaways, special pricing, lifestyle branding, and event sponsorships of rap, hip-hop and jazz artists.
“Nobody inhales cigarette smoke for the first time and thinks it feels good,” says Gina Cuyler, MD, FACP, vice president of health equity and community investments at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “That’s why tobacco companies seek to take the harsh edge off that initial experience so first-timers will continue to sample the product and get hooked.” The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive and adding menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat and airways, making the smoke feel easier to inhale.
Menthol is a chemical compound found naturally in peppermint and other similar plants. According to the CDC, some research shows that menthol cigarettes may be more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes because menthol can change the way the brain registers the sensations of taste and pain.
More than 70 percent of black young people who smoke use menthol cigarettes and they made up to 37 percent of total sales in 2019 and 2020.
The CDC estimates 40 percent of excess deaths due to menthol cigarette smoking in the U.S. between 1980 and 2018 were Black Americans, despite Black Americans making up only about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Black Americans ages 18 to 49 are two times as likely to die from heart disease than white Americans, and Black Americans ages 35 to 64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than white Americans.
“We need to educate the public, especially people of color, about this effort by tobacco companies to create nicotine addicts in our Black communities,” advises Cuyler. “All young people deserve to live tobacco-free lives!”
The New York State Smokers’ Quitline offers proven resources to help people who want to quit smoking. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or go online here.