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In it for the long haul: Coalition addresses the harms of menthol tobacco

Thank you for your article on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s tobacco industry-sponsored visit to the Twin Cities in January, “R.J. Reynolds is fighting moves to ban menthol cigarettes by enlisting black leaders — and stoking fears of police harassment.”

Sharpton and other representatives were paid by the tobacco industry to muddy the waters regarding menthol tobacco. They say restricting menthol would result in police harassment in the African-American community.

The real crime is how the African-American community has been targeted by tobacco-industry marketing for decades. Among African-American smokers, 88 percent smoke menthols, compared to only 25 percent of the general population.

Menthol makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit. Smoking leads to cancers, lung and cardiovascular diseases and to many other health problems. These are health problems that affect black people disproportionately.

The African American Leadership Forum is one of many health organizations in the Twin Cities that have formed a coalition with community members and public health officials to address the harms of menthol tobacco in our communities. Unlike the industry’s paid pawns, our community educators and advocates are in this for the long haul. We want a healthier community, and we are working to achieve that.

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