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Lisa Jakobsberg


[NEW YORK, NY – June 22, 2017] According to current data from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2015 Community Health Survey, 48% of NYC adult smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. The rates are even higher among African Americans, Latinos, and women. Menthol makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit, deceiving smokers by masking the harshness of the product.

Today Public Health Solutions NYC Smoke-Free program hosted a forum titled The Truth about Menthol: A Hazard in our Communities, in the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, to discuss menthol tobacco products and their devastating effects on communities of color, youth, women and other vulnerable populations. Speakers included Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Phillip Gardiner, PhD, Policy and Regulatory Sciences Program Officer for the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program at the University of California and Co-chair, of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Cianti Stewart-Reid, Vice President of Campaigns, Community and Youth Engagement, Truth Initiative.

Tobacco use remains the #1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 annually. In New York City, 12,000 residents die from a smoking-related illness every year. The forum provided an overview of how advocacy organizations are addressing menthol within the tobacco epidemic.

“Big Tobacco’s brazen marketing tactics had a lot to do with why I was a menthol smoker,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.  “It’s no secret that tobacco companies continue to target communities of color and children to hook them on a lifetime of nicotine addiction. As a former smoker, I know New Yorkers can see through these unscrupulous tactics and, with support, can and will quit smoking.”

“While overall cigarette smoking has been on a decline, menthol cigarette use has moved up and become a major public health issue that is having significant negative effects on specific populations including teenagers and African Americans,” says Lisa David, President and CEO of Public Health Solutions.  “The tobacco industry’s targeted marketing strategies to promote menthol products to vulnerable populations has only served to widen the gap in tobacco disparities.”

“Menthol cigarettes and the tobacco industry are the main killers of Black folks and through local ordinances we can begin to put a stop to it,” says Dr. Phillip S. Gardiner, DrPH, Co-Chair, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.

“Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. It’s no coincidence that rates among certain communities are higher – in fact it’s a result of the decades of targeting of these groups by Big Tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, to hook them on their deadly product,” says Stewart-Reid, VP of Campaigns, Community and Youth Engagement, Truth Initiative. “We need to hold them accountable. We are excited to turn up the volume and get even more people engaged in this movement. It’s profiling and we need it to stop happening.”

Public Health Solutions’ NYC Smoke-Free program is committed to building health equity and closing the gap in tobacco disparities to end the devastating tobacco epidemic. NYC Smoke-Free employs a two-pronged approach via youth action and community engagement, to utilize a community-based strategy that includes community education, community mobilization, government policy-maker education, and advocacy with organizational decision makers.

About NYC Smoke-Free

NYC Smoke-Free, a program of Public Health Solutions, works to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy and education. Formerly the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, we partner with community members, legislators, and health advocates to support local efforts to end the devastating tobacco epidemic throughout NYC. We believe every NYC resident has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work and play. We believe it is unacceptable for NYC youth to be lured into a life of tobacco addiction, and people who smoke deserve the support and resources to quit. To learn more visit:

About Public Health Solutions

Public Health Solutions (PHS) is the largest public health nonprofit serving New York City. For over 60 years, PHS has improved health outcomes and helped families thrive by providing services directly to the city’s most vulnerable populations, publishing groundbreaking research that moves public health policy and practice forward, and supporting over 200 community-based organizations through our long-standing government partnerships. We are a leader in addressing crucial public health issues, including food and nutrition, health insurance access, maternal and child health, reproductive health, tobacco control, and HIV/AIDS prevention. PHS has a strong focus on health equity to ensure NYC families have the basics for a healthier life.

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