Today, June 19, our community will gather to celebrate Juneteenth, a day commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States in 1865. While the legacy of slavery continues to fuel racist attitudes and actions, there are also many other historic injustices that continue to devastate African-American communities. One is the targeting of black communities by tobacco companies.
For decades, tobacco companies have specifically targeted African American and other minorities by using aggressive marketing campaigns, free tobacco giveaways, and heavy point-of-sale advertising tactics that helped to establish menthol as the cigarettes of choice in those communities.
These targeting practices continue largely unabated to this day and have had devastating impacts on African-Americans in Wisconsin, where 36 percent smoke, more than double the rate of the general population. Tobacco related illnesses are the number one killer of African Americans both here and nationally.
That’s why the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN) works to educate the community on the harms of tobacco use. The network also conducts environmental scans of retail establishments to document the latest marketing practices of tobacco companies. Unless we stand up against this injustice, and make others aware of it as well, the targeting is likely to continue, and our next generation could be Big Tobacco’s next victims.