On April 20, 2021, when the news circulated that the jury in the Derek Chauvin case had reached a verdict; there was a massive state of suspended animation as people across the nation and around the world collectively held their breath in anticipation of the verdict. When Judge Peter Cahill read the three guilty verdicts there was a huge exhale and for many a sigh of relief that finally the judicial system had worked for African Americans. But as important and significant as the finding was, there was another recently made decision that may have greater impact and enduring implications for the future of the African American community than Chauvin’s guilty verdict.
Last week, April 29, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration announced that it will ban menthol flavored cigarettes and all flavored cigars within the next year. This ban will significantly reduce disease and death linked to using those two products. Studies show that menthol flavored cigarettes are more highly addictive than other tobacco products. But there is more to the story.
This fact was known by the tobacco industry and was the reason they heavily marketed the brand to racial minorities. In the name of diversity the tobacco industry advertised their menthol brand tobacco products, using young attractive black actors on billboards across America strategically placed in African American communities. Menthol became the band of choice for many African Americans who did not realize the odious and sinister effects that menthol was having upon them. According to the CDC more than 85% of mentholated brand users are Black, nearly 47% are Hispanic, 38% are Asian and 29% are White.
It is believed that menthol flavoring is more addictive and harder to quit than regular brands. Another study determined that if menthol had been banned, within a years time, it would lead to 923,000 smokers quitting, including 230,000 African Americans.
So America used the free labor of African slaves to plant, grow and harvest its tobacco crops for hundreds of years during slavery in parts of the South, in the Caribbean and South America. Then knowingly and deliberately advertised its most addictive tobacco brands to the same community it exploited for free labor years later; to profit from and poison, for dollars, disease and death.
Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP has been calling for the ban of menthol cigarettes for years. He said in a statement, “For decades, the tobacco industry has been targeting African Americans and have contributed to the skyrocketing rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer across our community.” “The tobacco industry is on a…quest for profit, and…have been killing us along the way…it’s about time we prioritize the health and wellbeing of African Americans.”
Other advocacy groups such as the ACLU have mentioned the serious racial justice implications that the ban of menthol may have. They are calling for more progress in addressing the health needs and disparities in communities of color that decades of neglect and abuse have created. The Wise man says, “Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor, and don’t use your position to crush the weak, Because GOD will come to their defense; the life you took, he’ll take from you and give back to them.”——Proverbs 22:22—23 MES
So the the FDA’s decision to ban menthol from tobacco products while unnoticed, may have a greater impact on the welfare and well-being of African Americans, people of color and all Americans in the journey to justice, because the first and most important aspect of good citizenship and equal protection under the law is advancing good health for all.
And people wonder why African Americans deserve reparations? Perhaps the picture is becoming clearer.