U.S. Rep. Karen Bass held a press conference at Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles on May 20, to highlight the damage that corporate tobacco companies have done to Black neighborhoods after decades of targeting them with menthol cigarettes.
Surrounded by faith leaders, education officials, parents and students, Bass led the call for Californians to vote yes on a November ballot measure that would protect children by ending the sale of candy-flavored nicotine, including minty-menthol cigarettes. The event was sponsored by Black Leaders Against Tobacco Injustice, YES to Protect California Kids.
An explosive Los Angeles Times investigation (Black Smokers) recently showed how “big tobacco’s” racism created a cycle of addiction, disease and death in Black communities.
“Coming from a medical and health background, I know the real and devastating impact smoking can have, especially if addiction starts early. It’s not right that tobacco companies can spend billions of dollars on advertisements and lobbyists and paid spokespeople in exchange for the right to target Black youth with deadly products like menthol cigarettes, and generate big profits from it,” said Bass, who is also a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.
“We will vote ‘big tobacco’ out of our neighborhoods – and out of California – in November by voting yes to protect the next generation from getting hooked on nicotine.”
For generations, the tobacco industry has preyed on Black Americans, who now die of heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and other tobacco-related diseases at rates far higher than Whites. The bipartisan and overwhelmingly popular Senate Bill 793, passed in 2020, would have put tobacco companies on notice – ending the sale of candy-flavored nicotine products, including minty-flavored menthol cigarettes, statewide.
Now, tobacco companies are spending tens of millions of dollars to overturn that law. On November 8, 2022, voters will have a chance to vote yes on a measure that will protect kids by allowing SB 793 to finally take effect.
“For decades, big tobacco has made big profits using menthol cigarettes to create a cycle of addiction, disease and death in the Black community,” said Carol McGruder, founding member/co-chair of Black Leaders Against Tobacco Injustice and co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.
“When tobacco companies discovered that flavoring tobacco with minty-menthol, the original candy flavor, made cigarettes easier to smoke and harder to quit – they made a beeline straight for our kids,” said Dr. George McKenna, a member of the LAUSD Board of Trustees. “Which is why I’ll be voting yes in November.