(Charleston, SC) – The National Council of Negro Women, Inc. Bethune Leonard Section (NCNWBL) has been working with the Center for Black Health & Equity (The Center) to combat the Tobacco Cartel in Charleston. The Center challenged NCNWBL with starting a multi-cultural/muti-ethnic coalition to push this work forward in the Charleston area. In response, NCNWBL established the Breathe Easy Tri-County Coalition (Breathe Easy Tri-County). Breathe Easy Tri-County recently presented to the City of Charleston’s Health & Wellness Subcommittee regarding “The Toll of Tobacco on the City of Charleston.”
Breathe Easy Tri-County works to educate the community about the dangers of menthol-flavored tobacco products. The Coalition also combats the predatory marketing of tobacco products in African American communities where children are especially targeted. African Americans continue to have a higher addiction rate to menthol-flavored tobacco products than other communities. In addition, the menthol in tobacco products makes it easier for users to start and harder for them to quit.
NCNWBL and Breathe Easy Tri-County will host a press conference at 4:00 PM at ILA Local 1422 on Thursday October 20, 2022. Dr. Phillip Gardiner, Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), will be featured. AATCLC and other organizations filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to get the agency to ban all cigarette flavors to include menthol. He will be joined by Lewis McTush, CEO of LewMar Millenium Entertainment, a non-profit musicians’ healthcare advocacy firm out of Atlanta, GA, and Dr. LaShandra Morgan, a member of NCNWBL and Project Director of Breathe Easy Tri-County.
Also, NCNWBL and Breathe Easy Tri-County will host a Charleston Leader’s Reception at the same location from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The goal of the event is to educate Charleston community leaders and influencers about the health implications of mentholated commercial tobacco use and predatory marketing practices of the Tobacco Cartel, and, to update the community about the efforts of Breathe Easy Tri-County.
The findings from the Point-of-Sale research conducted by the Smoke-Free Lowcountry Coalition and Smoke-Free SC indicate that predatory marketing practices toward Charleston County youth have been progressively worsening over the last 4 to 5 years. The federal government has banned flavored tobacco cigarettes because flavors enticed children to start using tobacco products at alarming rates; menthol flavoring was not included. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, menthol is the flavor of choice for 80% of African American smokers. This, coupled with the fact that the Tobacco Cartel disproportionately markets mentholated tobacco products in African American neighborhoods, makes the Cartel’s actions not only an African American health issue but a social justice issue as well.