By delaying the ban on tobacco flavors in California, the tobacco industry will continue to reap profits by turning students into vaping users.
By Malia Cohen
Malia Cohen is president of the California State Board of Equalization and former chairwoman of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where she sponsored the success of San Francisco’s flavored tobacco ban in 2018.
It’s no coincidence that most African-American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes with mints or that Big Tobacco has racked up more black bodies than AIDS, homicides and accidents. combined.
As Black History Month draws to a close, we must recognize Big Tobacco’s history of profiting by destroying black lives; from the roots of its tobacco plantations soaked in blood and the deaths of enslaved Africans 400 years ago to hooking generations of young black people to menthols and making tobacco the number one killer of African Americans today today.
Black Americans are dying smoking-related diseases – including heart disease, lung cancer and stroke – far more than others. These recurring tragedies are the ruthless result of tobacco companies flooding black neighborhoods with marketing aimed at enticing children to smoke mint menthols, turning them into lifelong smokers and profiting from addiction.
For decades, black neighborhoods have been battlegrounds and victims of the tobacco industry.Menthol Wars.” New displays were developed for “urban” stores in city centers where retailers were paid and strictly controlled on product placement, shelf space, in-store advertisements and menthol prices were kept lower .
Until the mid-1990s, fleets of vans were deployed across the country to attract new black customers with free mint menthol gifts. Sponsorship funds and promotional advertisements were also launched at black community events and local organizations to leverage these relationships and build loyalty for the minty mint brand.
Targeting black neighborhoods worked. In the 1950s, less than 10% of African Americans who smoked used mint menthols. Today it’s 85%. The racist mindset of the time was revealed by a executive of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. who said, “We don’t just smoke s—. We just sold it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black, and the stupid.
Newport pioneered many tactics of the Menthol Wars. The brand’s aggressive marketing doubled its share of the mint menthol market between 1981 and 1987, and in 1993 it became the best menthol brand where he stays.
More than two-thirds of young African Americans who smoke today prefer Newports, cementing the company’s destruction of black lives for years to come. The stark reality is that nearly 1.6 million young black people alive today will become regular smokers and an estimated 500,000 will die prematurely from tobacco-related disease.
Tobacco companies want to replicate their predatory profits from mint menthol – the original candy-flavored cigarette – and are now making fruity cigars and vapes that all our kids love with sweet flavors like blue raspberry, root beer and cotton candy.
Their ruthless strategy is working. More than 2 million middle and high school students use electronic cigarettes and 4 in 5 children who have used tobacco have started with a flavored product. In California, almost all high school e-cigarette users use flavored products.
In 2020, California spent a historic law to end the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products – including mint-mint cigarettes – but tobacco companies have spent millions delaying the law by hijacking our referendum process.
Working to overturn this law, which has received overwhelming bipartisan support, through The November Election Measure is Big Tobacco’s last fight. Tobacco companies have spent tens of millions of dollars failing to roll back local candy-flavored tobacco bans in more than 100 California cities and counties.
By delaying a ban on tobacco flavors in our state, the tobacco industry will continue to reap profits by turning tens of thousands of additional young college students into vaping users, overwhelming California with a $800 million health care bill because many children who have recently become smokers will remain lifelong tobacco users.
By voting to end the sale of flavored tobacco in November, we can protect children from Big Tobacco exploiting them for profit and protect future generations from lifelong health problems.
Let’s turn the tables and put the tobacco companies in a box.