Menthol Tobacco is a Social and Racial Justice Issue

Menthol tobacco does not just cause detrimental health issues, but it brings along a slew of Social and Racial inequities as well. These big tobacco companies are knowingly targeting Black smokers with this highly addictive flavor, causing these communities to face yet another unspoken health epidemic.

Did you know?

  • Menthol makes nicotine more addictive.
  • More than 50% of teen smokers start with a menthol brand. 
  • Among Black teens, the rate of menthol smoking is over 90%.
  • Menthol brands are used by 85% of Black smokers. 
  • People who smoke menthol cigarettes have more difficulty quitting and have more health problems that result from smoking.
  • Menthol tobacco products are marketed more heavily in communities of low income and color.

Although smoking rates have dropped in general, the number of menthol tobacco users has remained the same. People who smoke menthol are less likely to be able to quit, inhale more deeply and feel less irritation. In turn, individuals tend to hold the smoke in longer, resulting in more common and more severe lung and health problems. On top of that, nicotine and menthol work together in the brain to make both smoking and nicotine more addictive, and the tobacco industry knows all of this. 

Producers have designed cigarettes and menthol cigarettes to be the most addictive product possible, without regard for health or well-being. Big tobacco and big vape companies sell us fictional stories about smoking and vaping. The narrative being that vaping gives us freedom and is relevant to our culture or way of life. See, the opposite is true: Most people who smoke also want to quit. And, oftentimes, people who smoke are individuals who can’t afford to do so, mentally, physically and financially. 

Yet, another lie is being told: Smoking and vaping nicotine helps people relieve stress and cope with unforeseen circumstances. But, in fact, smoking and vaping can increase anxiety and depression. Smoking is a coping strategy that results in avoided problems and poor health. 

November is “Child Safety and Protection Month.” Color & Culture is dedicated to getting the word out about menthol tobacco and the harm it causes to individuals, families and neighborhoods, particularly young people and communities of color. To learn more about the public health and social justice impacts of menthol tobacco, check out our video below. If you’d like to quit smoking or vaping and are interested in free coaching and nicotine patches, call 1-800 QUIT NOW (1-855-Déjelo-Ya, 1-855-335-3569). If you are under 18 years old, text “Start My Quit” to 36072.

References for Further Reading

D’Silva J, Cohn AM, Johnson AL, Villanti AC. Differences in subjective experiences to first use of menthol and nonmenthol cigarettes in a national sample of young adult cigarette smokers. Nicotine Tob Res. 20(9):1062-1068, 2018.

Truth Initiative. Menthol: Facts, Stats and Regulations.

Wickham RJ. The Biological Impact of Menthol on Tobacco Dependence. Nicotine Tob Res. 2020 Oct 8;22(10):1676-1684. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntz239. PMID: 31867627.

Levy DT, Blackman K, Tauras J, Chaloupka FJ, Villanti AC, Niaura RS, Vallone DM, Abrams DB. Quit attempts and quit rates among menthol and nonmenthol smokers in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2011 Jul;101(7):1241-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300178. Epub 2011 May 12. PMID: 21566032; PMCID: PMC3110228.

Obisesan OH, Mirbolouk M, Osei AD, Orimoloye OA, Uddin SMI, Dzaye O, El Shahawy O, Al Rifai M, Bhatnagar A, Stokes A, Benjamin EJ, DeFilippis AP, Blaha MJ. Association Between e-Cigarette Use and Depression in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016-2017. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Dec 2;2(12):e1916800. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.16800. PMID: 31800073; PMCID: PMC6902792.

More Insights

News post screenshots with headlines with predictions about a coming recession.

Insulation through Connection

As we head into a global recession, now is the time to assess your own customers’ risk factors and devise a strategy to partner through the recession and achieve mutual success.

Connect with Color & Culture

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, The Color & Culture Catalyst. Get marketing insights, company news and the latest on the work we’re doing, including our outreach into underserved communities.