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Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition aims to eliminate menthol cigarettes in local communities

November 29, 2021
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Local initiatives during Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month when many organizations and individuals are encouraging the public to learn about this disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both women and men throughout the United States. One of the ways to prevent lung cancer is to not start smoking or quit. Even though this seems like the ideal way to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer, there are many tobacco and menthol advertisements that persuade people to smoke, especially in Black neighborhoods.

 Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both women and men throughout the United States.

The Northeast Black Health Coalition (NEOBHC) has been addressing this public health issue through their Fighting for Our Lives: Menthol Free Communitie s initiative, in collaboration with The Center for Black Health and Equity. The Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition is a social justice organization whose mission is “to address the impact of racism on African American disparities including policy inequities, historical trauma, food insecurity, research, behavioral health and addiction, health promotion by working to empower, educate and advocate for health equity in under-served communities.” Their aim is to meet the needs of Black people living in the 16 counties that comprise Northeast Ohio.

You’ve Been Targeted: 11 billboards in Northeast Ohio

During NEOBHC’s You’ve Been Targeted billboard campaign, they were encouraging individuals to stop smoking and to support the ban of menthol-flavored cigarettes throughout Northeast Ohio, especially in majority Black communities. Eleven billboards were posted at eleven locations across Northeast Ohio featuring community leaders with a singular message: “Menthol makes smoking easy to start and hard to quit.” The billboard campaign has recently ended but the images are being used for a social media project.  

“You’ve Been Targeted” Billboard featuring Yvonka Hall, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition[/caption]  

“You’ve Been Targeted” Billboard featuring Kemberley Jones, President of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. Cuyahoga County Section[/caption]

The Great American Smoke Out

As a part of this work, NEOBHC facilitated a webinar for the Great American Smoke Out. The webinar, hosted by Dawn Pullin, featured guest speakers who explained the connection between lung cancer and menthol cigarettes.  

Tanyanika Phillips, MD, an oncologist and hematologist in California, explained the signs of lung cancer are a prolonged cough and shortness of breath but, unfortunately, many people do not recognize the signs until they receive treatment for another health issue.

 Although Black Americans smoke fewer cigarettes than white Americans, they are less likely to be successful at quitting than other groups.

Later, Faye Gary, EdD, MS, RN, FAAN, briefly talked about tobacco and menthol cigarettes in Black communities. Although Black Americans smoke fewer cigarettes than white Americans, they are less likely to be successful at quitting than other groups. Some of the issues causing this disparity include the tobacco industry’s disproportionate marketing in Black communities, supporting cultural events and making contributions to minority serving institutions and universities.  

Finally, the Gathering Place, a cancer support center in Beachwood and Westlake, OH, was introduced. Beth Bennett, Chief Program Officer from The Gathering Place discussed services they offer to persons who suffer from cancer. The services include Sisters Circle (a Black women’s support group), cooking programs, and a medical librarian who interprets pathology and lab reports. The speakers presented a wealth of information to the audience with the overall goal to help people quit smoking in order to prevent lung cancer.

 NEOBHC is looking for youth ambassadors to get involved in this effort.

Youth outreach is next for No Menthol Fighting for Our Lives campaign

For the upcoming year, NEOBHC will continue its Fighting for Our Lives: Menthol Free Communities campaign with youth. Young people, ages 14 to 20 years of age, will create a billboard campaign with messaging directed towards their peers. This is a significant project as many youth, especially as seven out of ten Black youth from ages 12 to 17 who smoke utilize menthol cigarettes. NEOBHC is looking for youth ambassadors to get involved in this effort. For more information about this project or if anyone is interested in becoming a youth ambassador, contact Dr. Lashale Pugh, Research and Evaluation Director of NEOBHC, at lpughneobhc@gmail.com.  

Local organizations such as NEOBHC are making a significant impact throughout Northeast Ohio and Community Solutions will continue to follow their progress.  

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