According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans approximately made up 12 percent of the 46 million adult smokers in 2008. In particular, menthol cigarette use is disproportionately high among African Americans with nearly 84 percent of black smokers aged 12 years or older report smoking menthol cigarettes. Despite the common belief that mentholated cigarettes are healthier, they do in fact; carry the same health risks that regular cigarettes do. Because of the health risks mentholated cigarettes pose to the black community, legislators have stepped out on increasing quitting programs and health awareness on the impact of smoking.
NBCSL as well as the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council provided important support and information about the ongoing dangers that menthol poses. In Resolution HHS-11-14 SUPPORTING SMOKING PREVENTION AND CESSATION PROGRAMS, NBCSL promotes smoking cessation programs and smoking prevention programs towards ending youth smoking.
“Menthol Quit Strategies” (SF 1836) was introduced as a stand-alone study to better understand and implement quit strategies for menthol use in the African-American community. The bill would require the commissioner of health along with representatives of the African-American community and other stakeholders to come together and review current attitudes and beliefs related to mentholated cigarette use among African Americans and make recommendations on reducing the disproportionately high use. The bill and its funding were eventually folded into the omnibus HHS funding bill as a grant for a local health organization to work with community based organizations.
NBCSL applauds this measure and the efforts to solve problems as complex as the lack of economic development and jobs in certain communities. NBCSL members continue to introduce and develop common sense solutions to these and other problems.