Pat's Turn: Find Your Way to Freedom
No Menthol Sunday (May 27)
by Patricia M. Turner, Tobacco Education Coordinator, Tobacco Free Allen County
My Organization, Tobacco Free Allen County (TFAC), works to create tobacco free homes, workplaces, and public spaces for all people living, working and playing in Allen County. TFAC provides education on tobacco use and exposure risks; advocates for comprehensive smoke-free housing, campuses, and workplaces; promotes evidence-based nicotine and tobacco addiction treatment; and seeks to prevent youth from initiating tobacco and nicotine use.
Smoking causes 1 out of every 5 deaths in the United States. Before the 1950s, smoking was far less common among Blacks than Whites. There are now more than 8 million African Americans who smoke. Because more Blacks are smoking, deaths of Black people who smoke have gone way up. Each year, more than 47,000 Black people in the United States die from diseases they get just because they smoke. More Black Americans die from diseases caused by smoking than from murders, AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, and car crashes put together, which totals around 27,000.
Cigarettes are a major cause of heart attacks, and they can also damage the blood vessels. Smoking can lead to strokes and emphysema. Smoking can cause cancers of the lungs, throat, mouth, bladder, cervix, stomach and kidney. More Black women today get lung cancer than get breast cancer. Black men are 50% more likely to get lung cancer than White men.
Menthol cigarette brands have been the top sellers among African Americans. In fact, 3 out of 4 Black smokers buy menthols. Chemicals are added to menthol cigarettes to give them a fresh, minty taste. This can make it easier for a smoker to inhale deeply, which allows more chemicals to enter the lungs. Menthol in cigarettes does not make smoking safer. In fact, menthol may even make things worse. Studies have found higher relapse rates among menthol smokers when compared to smokers of non-mentholated cigarettes. Higher rates of lung cancer in Black smokers may be linked to a preference for menthol cigarettes.
Because menthol cigarettes are so detrimental to the Black community, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) is leading the effort for No Menthol Sunday, May 27, a national observance day. This is an important opportunity to engage faith leaders and their communities in a discussion about how to improve health outcomes for African Americans. This is a day to encourage congregations to support one another in escaping tobacco addiction and to aim to highlight the role of menthol in particular.
This year's theme, "Find Your Way to Freedom," encourages people to be aware of the many quit methods available and to be patient with the process of finding what works. The goal is to quit for good and remain free. NAATPN promotes the Pathways To Freedom® program (PTF), which is available for download on the Centers for Disease Control website. Psalms 119:45 celebrates the idea that you can walk in freedom when you seek wisdom from the Most High. NAATPN believes that freedom from tobacco use can include prayer, culturally relevant cessation tools like PTF, and an active push to ensure young people don’t start tobacco. This year, TFAC is partnering with NAATPN, and we will be distributing fans to churches with messages on how to quit smoking. Our hope is that the message on the fans will help encourage individuals to make a 'quit' attempt and reduce the impact tobacco addiction has on the Black community. Not another Life!!
Should you want additional information about TFAC and what we do, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a smoke free day!!