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Health Organizations Work To Help Black Smokers Quit


Major health organizations are pushing to get the word out to Black smokers that assistance is available for those who want to quit. This comes on the heels of the Biden administration moving closer to banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the vast majority of Black smokers in the U.S., 85% use menthol.

Just back in 2020, nearly 81% of Black smokers used menthols, compared to 34% of white smokers, according to NBC News.

The disparity is the result of decades-long advertising practices from the tobacco industry that specifically targeted menthol cigarettes to Black communities, said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, an anti-tobacco public health and advocacy group.

When compared to regular cigarettes, menthols are way more addictive and particularly difficult to quit. The rate at which menthol smokers quit is lower than non menthol smokers. Black menthol smokers may even be less successful than other groups, according to the CDC.

Unfortunately, across the country, programs that can assist smokers quitting are being underutilized, as smokers continue to try and quit cold turkey or by taking medications prescribed by their doctor with very little counseling, said Jennifer Folkenroth, the American Lung Association’s national senior director of tobacco programs.

Folkenroth said there is no need for more trained and certified facilitators in Black communities, like churches, “to really assist these quitters in their journey to freedom.”

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, more than 45,000 Black people die from smoking each year. This includes mothers, fathers, grandparents and other Black people who are instrumental in bolstering the community.

“When we lose those people, it destabilizes the familial unit, it destabilizes the church, and it destabilizes our community,” McGruder said.

What makes menthol cigarettes so addicting is the mint flavor, said Sven-Eric Jordt, an associate professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology and cancer biology at the Duke University School of Medicine.

For starters, menthol has a cooling effect that suppresses coughing and makes tobacco smoke less irritating to the throat, which makes it easier to inhale, said Jordt, who is a research project director and teaching faculty member at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the Yale School of Medicine.

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