Truth Initiative issued the following announcement on Aug. 21.
Students from Meharry Medical College are hosting a townhall meeting today to discuss the historically black institution's recent announcement that it accepted $7.5 million from JUUL, the fastest-growing e-cigarette maker and now part of Big Tobacco since Altria purchased a 35% stake in the company. Students and members of the African American community are concerned about the funding, which will be used to study vaping, tobacco use and other health issues impacting African Americans, due to the legacy of the tobacco industry infiltrating African American communities to sell its products. JUUL is also prompting concerns about its role in the youth vaping epidemic and the possibility its products could lead to combustible tobacco use. Young people who use e-cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking cigarettes when compared to their peers who do not vape. Truth Initiative®, the national nonprofit dedicated to making tobacco a thing of the past, is a convener of the event.
The tobacco industry has a long history of strategically marketing tobacco products to appeal to the African American community. These efforts have included making financial contributions to African American groups and leaders, sponsoring cultural events, and placing advertising in publications and venues that are popular with black audiences. In fact, studies have shown that race and ethnicity have a major impact on the location and type of advertising that Big Tobacco employs on behalf of its products, with more tobacco retailers existing in areas with larger African American, Hispanic and low-income populations. For example, researchers in Washington, D.C. found that stores in predominantly black neighborhoods were up to 10 times more likely to display tobacco ads inside and outside than retailers in areas with fewer black residents.
Further, menthol cigarettes, which are easier to smoke, harder to quit and more popular with young smokers, have long been marketed to the black community. Today, nearly 90 percent of all African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, and more than 39,000 African Americans die from smoking-related cancers each year. In the absence of U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations on menthol cigarettes, many public health groups and African American community members are calling for restrictions on the sale of these products.
"As a student at Meharry Medical College, I am concerned that, through its partnership with JUUL, Big Tobacco has found a way to infiltrate the African American community once again," said Shanika Kidd, Master of Science in public health student at Meharry Medical College. "My classmates and I want to ensure that our institution is fully aware of the implications of accepting this funding."
The townhall meeting will include a screening of the film Black Lives/Black Lungs, which explores how menthol and other tobacco products permeate black communities. A panel discussion and Q&A session will follow the film, featuring:
- Lincoln Mondy, creator and filmmaker, Black Lives/Black Lungs; associate director of strategic projects, Advocates for Youth
- Dr. Phil Gardiner, policy and regulatory sciences program officer for the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, University of California, Office of the President
- Patrick Johnson, senior vice president for institutional advancement, Meharry Medical College
- Lillian Maddox-Whitehead, program coordinator for the Tobacco Prevention Program, Metro Public Health Department of Nashville and Davidson County
- Shanika Kidd, Master of Science in Public Health student at Meharry Medical College
Following the townhall meeting, Meharry students and community leaders will meet with members of the Meharry Medical College administration to encourage accountability and transparency regarding JUUL's funding and research initiatives.
For more information, please visit truthinitiative.org.
About Truth Initiative
Truth Initiative is a national public health organization that is inspiring tobacco-free lives and building a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco. The truth about tobacco and the tobacco industry are at the heart of our proven-effective and nationally recognized truth® public education campaign, our rigorous and scientific research and policy studies, and our innovative community and youth engagement programs supporting populations at high risk of using tobacco. The Washington D.C.-based organization, formerly known as Legacy, was established and funded through the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories, and the tobacco industry. To learn more about our work speaking, seeking and spreading the truth about tobacco, visit truthinitiative.org.
Original source can be found here.