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  • Writer's pictureEntertainers Speak Out

Local Coalitions Highlight Resources to Help Smokers Quit and the Need to Prohibit Menthol Cigarette

WHAT: Leading up to the Great American Smokeout on November 17, Atlanta health and social justice advocates will hold a series of free events to raise awareness about locally available resources to help smokers quit and the need to ban menthol cigarettes, which have plagued the Black community and other vulnerable populations in Atlanta and across the nation. The events will highlight the harm caused by the tobacco industry’s relentless targeting of Black communities and kids with flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and flavored e-cigarettes.

The week’s activities will culminate on November 17, the day of the Great American Smokeout, with a free event at the Park Tavern with live music, food and other entertainment. The event will include a screening of filmmaker Lincoln Mondy’s acclaimed documentary, Black Lives/Black Lungs, about the predatory marketing of menthol cigarettes to Black communities.

In celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, attendees at another event on November 16 will have the chance to win a gift card for free a turkey if they sign a pledge to quit tobacco ‘cold turkey’.

The events will be hosted by H.E.A.R.T. (Health Education Awareness and Research on Tobacco) and No Menthol Movement ATL, two broad-based community coalitions working to reduce tobacco use and save lives. Other participants include CVS Health, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Center for Black Health and Equity, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and many others.

WHY: Earlier this year, the FDA proposed historic regulations to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, products that have long been marketed to Black communities and kids and caused devastating and disproportionate harm to Black health. Scientific evidence shows that menthol cigarettes are more addictive, easier for kids to start and harder for smokers to quit. Menthol numbs the throat and masks the harshness of cigarette smoke, which makes it easier for kids to start smoking and eventually become addicted.

For decades, the tobacco industry has marketed menthol cigarettes to Black communities. In the 1950s, less than 10% of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes; today that number is 85%. Menthol cigarettes are a major reason why tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among Black Americans – claiming 45,000 Black lives each year – and Black Americans die at higher rates from tobacco-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke. Eliminating menthol and other flavored tobacco products will protect kids, advance health equity, and save lives, especially among Black Americans.

WHEN/WHERE: The week-long series of events will take place from Monday, November 14 to Thursday, November 17.

· Monday, November 14th: Virtual Fireside Chat & Educational Webinar hosted by the H.E.A.R.T. Coalition and Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes (PAVe). Members of the public and media can register in advance for this webinar here:

· Tuesday, November 15: Tobacco Awareness Day at Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University hosted by No Menthol Movement ATL, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Black Women’s Health Imperative and Save A Girl, Save A World (SAGSAW). Invitation only.

· Wednesday, November 16: Go Cold Turkey for a Turkey, 3:00-5:00pm A coalition of local and national partners will host an event at the West End Library (525 Peebles Street SW) promoting locally available tobacco cessation services and will provide a gift card for purchasing a turkey for those who pledge to ‘quit cold turkey’. The Fresh Start Bus – a bus featuring educational messages about tobacco use and family-friendly activities – will be part of the festivities. The bus has made stops throughout the state educating communities about the burden of menthol cigarette use.

· Thursday, November 17: Atlanta’s Great American Smokeout, 5:00-9:00pm This event, will take place at Park Tavern (Piedmont Park, 500 10th Street NE). Participants will hear from community leaders about resources to quit smoking and the need to prohibit menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. The Fresh Start Bus will make another appearance, and the Black Lives/Black Lungs documentary will be screened. Entertainers Speak Out for Smokefree Rights For All will co-host this event.

Events will be hosted by the H.E.A.R.T. (Health Education Awareness and Research on Tobacco) and No Menthol Movement ATL coalitions. In existence since 1997, the H.E.A.R.T. Coalition spearheaded the passing of a smoke-free ordinance for the City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation Centers and the Fulton County Parks and Recreation and assisted both the Atlanta and Fulton County Public School Systems in revising and updating their 100% Tobacco-Free School Policies. The No Menthol Movement ATL Coalition was founded in 2020 and is a broad-based strategic initiative designed to end the sale and use of menthol and other flavored tobacco products in metro Atlanta and surrounding areas through environmental policy solutions and community education.

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