Slaying Big Tobacco's menthol dragons

·3 min read

May 25—PLATTSBURGH — May 31 marks World Free Tobacco Day.

Tobacco-Free Clinton, Franklin Essex invites local residents to push back against on how tobacco industry targets specific groups such as menthol tobacco in BIPOC communities.

On No Menthol Sunday (May 16), "It's Not Just" campaign launched statewide to educate people across New York State about the injustice of menthol-flavored tobacco product marketing and promotion, according to a press release.

The initiative aims to put a spotlight on how the tobacco industry has specifically targeted African American communities for decades with its aggressive marketing of menthol-flavored tobacco products.

Smoking-related illnesses are the No. 1 cause of death in the African American community and 85 percent of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes.

"It's a statewide campaign," Dana Bushey Isabella, program director for Tobacco Free Clinton, Franklin, Essex, said.

"We developed it here in New York State through Advancing Tobacco Free Communities grant.

That's a grant out of the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control."

Tobacco-Free Clinton Franklin Essex and Realty Check are the face of that grant locally and based out of the Champlain Valley Family Center.

"The money comes down from the Bureau of Tobacco Control," Isabella said.

"We are one of 25 across the state, and we collaboratively created a media company called Pinckney Hugo Group. They develop our media and place it for us."

"It's Not Just" campaign is intended to educate people across New York State about the injustice of menthol-flavored tobacco product marketing and promotion. The campaign uses direct language and powerful, emotional imagery of people who represent communities targeted by Big Tobacco.

It describes how menthol is more than a flavor, highlighting hard-hitting facts about the manipulative, aggressive nature of menthol tobacco marketing and its impact on African-American communities.

"With its aggressive marketing of menthol-flavored tobacco products," Isabella said.

"It really looks at is as a social justice issue. We work with the Center for Black Equity and Health. They kind of helped us guide our messaging, so that it lined up with what the Center for Black Equity and Health is working on at the national level. We're so proud of it. It's such a great campaign."

Artist Giovanina Bucci is at work on a thematic mural to launch the campaign in the Champlain Centre Mall.

"They have given us a wall in the Food Court," Isabella said.

"We started last week, our mural. We hope to have it completely installed and ready next week for World No Tobacco Day."

Bucci's art adorns the "You're part of the change " selfie-wall, which has arrows pointing at visitors.

"I couldn't be more pleased with having her be a part of this project with us," Isabella said.

"This week Loremans' is doing vinyls for me that go with the "It's Not Just" campaign. We 're looking to engage people with the campaign that you can be part of the change. You can stand up. Menthol flavor in tobacco is a social justice issue."

Later this summer, the campaign's second phase highlights LGBTQIA communities.

"How menthol is a tactic of the tobacco industry," Isabella said.

"They are a primary target also. This isn't just a flavor. This is a social justice issue totally created by the industry."

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