Reducing Tobacco Forum

Thursday 28 May 2015 I attended the Reducing Tobacco Forum.  Tobacco is the leading cause of death in black Americans.

We need buffer zones around our schools.  They have already started attacking in other cities.  Menthol hides the harsh taste of tobacco and reduces the irritation.  The darker the skin, the more nicotine you can absorb.  Menthol cigarettes are cheaper in black neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods.

Dr.  Leana Wen:

We are always telling people about the things that they can’t do.  In the Emergency Room people ask me, “What is it that I can do?”  One thing that you can do to be healthy is to stop smoking.  When we look at every bodily disease, the one thing that contributes to all of them is smoking.  Our kids are the replacement smokers as the adult smokers die off.  Life expectancy difference is 20 years between blocks.  Education by itself is not enough.  We need policies in our City to help us to choose healthy life styles.

Carol McGruder, co-chair of The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council which was formed in 2008.  We educate the black community about tobacco use and cessation, partner with community stakeholders and public health agencies to inform and affect the direction of tobacco policy, practices, and priorities, as it affects the lives of black American and African immigrant populations.

In the United States, smoking and tobacco related deaths kill more black Americans than:
●    AIDS
●    Car Accidents
●    Violence
●    And other non-tobacco related cancers

Tobacco has to rise above all these issues.

There are so many things to support AIDS.  Lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer.

Crack cocaine does not kill as many as tobacco.  Homicide kills 8,650 compared to 47,300 by tobacco.

Tobacco is taking way more than all the other issues.  Smoking and tobacco is our number one killer.

Healthy communities facilitate the individual’s ability to make healthy choices.  In many communities it is easier to make an unhealthy choice. 

Nicotine addiction is a social justice issue

Tobacco Industry sanctions are measured and preserve the “status quo”.  Sanctions are no designed to stop the number one preventable cause of death, this would be political suicide.  Tobacco Industry should be frame as “pro-crack or Pro-meth” force in our community.  Black and other "marginalized" communities are often the “bargaining chip” in policy negotiations.  Smoking/tobacco is a problem of political will

Marie Evans’ family settled for $29 million.  She grew up in Boston public housing and was given free Newports at the age of nine.  She was addicted to cigarettes at the age of 13 and dead at 54.

We have to own this issue and we have to understand the magnitude of this issue.  The European Union has banned menthol and all flavored tobacco products.

In Chicago Dr.  Gardiner helped passed a law banning menthol within 500 feet of a school there.

Black  Menthol Use Skyrockets

1953    5%
    1968    14
        1976    44%
            2006    82%

By 2011 the rate was 87%.

“Menthols got a brand new bag” was from a James Brown song.  In 1958 Salem came out with the first filtered cigarette.

By 1963 a black man was advertising Kool cigarette.  By 1970 the characters in the ads were definitely black.

Tobacco Industry’s Assault of the Black Community (1960s & 70s)

●    91% of Advertising Budget for TV (B&W)
●    Use of Male Actors with more Black features
●    Triple Cigarette Advertising in Ebony
●    “Menthols got a brand new bag”
●    Cool Jazz; Cool Lexicon
●    Philanthropy
        (Gardiner, 2004)

Menthol Wars: The 1980s and the Fight for Market Share

●    Cigarette Sampling Vans
    –     Kool, Newport, Salem, Benson & Hedges
    –    Free Cigarette Samples
    –     High Traffic Areas: Parks, Known Street Corners, Daily Routes
            – (Yerger, Przewoznik and Malone, 2007)

In the 1970s we had the Menthol Wars.  We had a predation: “the act of attacking or plundering, where a predator (the tobacco industry) feeds on its prey (the African American Community and other marginalized groups)”.

Menthol cigarettes are cheaper.  As the percentage of black students increases, ads for tobacco increase.

Menthol is similar to hot sauce.  Menthol is harder to quit.  All tobacco products have some menthol.

We suggest a 500 foot barrier around our schools to prohibit the sale of menthol and other tobacco products.

Laura Fox and Emilie Guilde reported that Baltimore and the entire State of Maryland is out of compliance with the sale of tobacco.    If you see stores selling to kids, call 311.

Emilie Guilde told us that the biggest use of tobacco is with people of lower income.

The more tobacco outlets there are, the more the kids will be exposed to tobacco.  In Baltimore City over half of the schools have a tobacco outlet within 500 feet and 75 of them are elementary schools.  We have 1600 tobacco outlets in Baltimore City and 288 are within 500 feet of a school.  A small number of stores but a large number of schools would be impacted by the 500 feet barrier.  One school in Baltimore had ten tobacco outlets within 500 feet.

A woman asked if there is an economic analysis impact for those who stopped smoking.  We don’t have it specifically for Baltimore City.

A lot of the data is on the Health Department web site.

People are desensitized to people who smoke.  Youths are trying nicotine and they know the flavors.  IT is easy for them to go to the corner store.  Often all they have to do is to give the clerk an extra dollar.  If we don’t give them a voice, who will?


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Dr. Leana Wen

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Carol McGruder

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Dr. Gardiner

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Laura Fox and Emilie Guilde

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Emile Guilde

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Exterior landscape of where the forum took place

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