In our first live episode, we cover the true story of menthol. We are joined by guest host, Natasha Phelps, a Lead Senior Staff Attorney at the Public Health Law Center. She leads their race and health equity work focusing on racism as a public health emergency.
Menthol is a point of contention in the tobacco control world. “For the last 11 years, advocates have been banging their cups agains the rails trying to get policymakers to understand the dangers of menthol. Since the 1960s Big Tobacco have targeted communities of color, more specifically Black communities. When it comes to menthol, it is the cigarette flavor of choice for over 80% of Black smokers.”
Ms. Phelps reminds us that when it comes to what has happened on the legal front with menthol, it is really a reflection of the political oppression and the systems that are present in this country. There is a period where people weren’t aware of the programming, but once they became aware of what the tobacco industry was doing the general mindset toward smoking started to change. Attitudes began to shift as more science developed and concerns around children were at the forefront. But what about the Black children?
When we think about the true story of menthol, we have to be brave enough to take the story in its entirety. Menthol is the great initiator. It starts with young people but then it becomes the vice for some many Black people who start smoking. Menthol actually makes it easier to get hooked and much harder to quit.
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