Last night I heard an interesting radio commercial about the harms of menthol cigarettes. The ad exposes how tobacco companies target menthol products to African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, and young people.
As an African American, I’m concerned about the alarming number of people I see using these products within my community. The industry has a long history of marketing in our community. Among African Americans who smoke, 88 percent smoke menthol tobacco, compared to only 25 percent of the general population.
Menthol makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit. Smoking leads to cancers that can occur nearly anywhere in the body, to lung and cardiovascular diseases, and to many other health problems. These are health problems that affect Black people disproportionately.
I’m definitely committed to the work of making sure the tobacco companies are stopped in their efforts to target their menthol products to African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, and young people. Moving forward, I’m committed to being a change agent in my community to address this issue. It’s time to stand up to the tobacco industry and focus on the health of the African American community.
Jackie Cooper lives in St. Paul.