Commercial tobacco is mass-produced by Big Tobacco companies for profit and is different than traditional tobacco which has been used for spiritual and medicinal purposes by Indigenous people for centuries and continues to be used today. The tobacco plant is considered a sacred gift by many Native American communities. – Source: Keep it Sacred: National Native Network, Traditional vs. Commercial Tobacco

Learn the truth

Here it is. For decades the commercial tobacco industry has executed a calculated, manipulative strategy to market and promote highly addictive and deadly menthol cigarettes to African Americans, and to establish a strong presence in Black culture.

One example. If you were to examine the stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Washington D.C., you would find that these stores were up to ten times more likely to display menthol tobacco ads than retailers in areas with fewer Black residents.1

What’s true in Washington D.C. is true everywhere. Black neighborhoods are where menthol products are most heavily advertised. They are where menthol products are more widely available. And where menthol products have their lowest prices.2

This has led to health disparities in African American communities.

These decisions, these strategies, these tactics, they’re done because they think they know you. The tobacco companies attempt to use culturally tailored advertising images and messages.

They use African American culture as a weapon.

They create a dependency on tobacco funding by providing financial support for community groups, events, schools, churches, and social justice organizations. They even partner with celebrities, church officials, and politicians.

  • The truth is they don’t know you.
  • The truth is they only want to sell to you.

THE facts on menthol harms

Smoking is easy. Quitting is hard.3

Menthol’s cooling sensation makes it easier to start smoking. Menthol’s ability to increase the number of nicotine receptors in the brain makes it harder to quit than non-menthol products.

Tobacco companies understand how menthol impacts the body and use it to influence people to start smoking and keep smokers addicted.

  • Big Tobacco has taken advantage of these facts to target
  • the African American community to great harm:

Most African Americans who smoke use

menthol cigarettes. 4


of African Americans who smoke in Washington use menthol cigarettes compared to 20% of white people.5


of African American youth in the US who smoke use menthol cigarettes.


of preventable death for African Americans is tobacco-related illness.6

    • The truth is they don’t know you.
    • The truth is they don’t mind the harm because it profits them.


Flavored cigarettes have been banned. Yet the tobacco industry has successfully lobbied to keep menthol – the flavor that is almost exclusively marketed to African Americans – exempt from this ban.7

These efforts have included financial contributions and alignment with African American leaders and politicians. The efforts have included pushing fear through false narratives that menthol bans will unfairly target and lead to further criminalization of African Americans.

They’re basically paying for the right and the access to send an endless stream of poison into African American communities.

  • The truth is they don’t know you.
  • The truth is it’s not just the tobacco companies.


  • Washington Breathes – Statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to eliminate harmful use of commercial tobacco and other nicotine products.
  • AATCLC: The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council – Leading public health education and advocacy organization taking on Big Tobacco to save Black lives.
  • National Cancer Institute – FDA Proposes Rule Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes.


Menthol tobacco is associated with greater chances of both depression and anxiety among young people.

The stimulating effect may weaken certain mood disorder symptoms leading young people with mental illness to self-medicate with menthol.8 In reality, menthol hides the symptoms we need to let us know that there is a greater illness.

  • This makes it harder for people with mental illness to quit menthol.

Culturally relevant and informed help is available in-person and online:

  • Therapy for Black Girls: Online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black Women and Girls; referral tool to find a therapist in your area.
  • Therapy for Black Men: Therapist directory for Black Men seeking therapy; includes some additional resources.
  • Black Men Heal: Mental health treatment, education, and resources to Men of color; free therapy sessions available.
  • The Safe Place: Free app offering mental health resources and self-care tips for the Black Community.
  • Washington Counselors of Color Network: Counseling and therapy from providers who understand the specific needs of people of color and various cultures.
  • Open Path Collective Therapy: Network of providers who offer in-person and online mental health care for individuals, couples and families. Lower-cost sessions between $30 and $60.
  • National Association of Mental Illness: Resources and free support groups for those affected by mental illness. Local chapters provide groups specifically designed for Black and Indigenous participants.
  • The truth is they don’t know you.
  • The truth is they know what they’re doing to you.

If you’re in crisis, or know someone who is, seek help immediately:


Quitting smoking is hard. Help is available.

The Washington Quitline is free and confidential. You get one-on-one counseling from a Quit Coach, and you may be eligible for free medication to help you quit smoking, vaping, or using some other form of tobacco.

Text Ready
to 34191


  • The truth is they don’t know you.
  • The truth is they don’t want you to quit.

Additional resources also available to those looking to quit smoking right now:

  • 2morrow Health: Free and anonymous app that helps you deal with difficult thoughts, urges, and cravings caused by nicotine. Programs for youth (13-17), adults, pregnant persons and Spanish speakers. 18+ users eligible to receive Nicotine Replacement Therapy.
  • This is Quitting: A text-to-quit vaping service for people in Washington ages 13-24. Text DITCHVAPE to 88709.
  • Live Vape Free: A youth texting program for teens ages 13 to 17 that is fun, easy-to-navigate, and teaches the skills to quit vaping for good. Text VAPEFREE to 873373.
  • Washington Counselors of Color Network: Counseling and therapy from providers who understand the specific needs of people of color and various cultures.
  • Offers free text messaging programs that give 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips for becoming smokefree and being healthier.
  • A special thank you to Public Health – Seattle & King County for providing these helpful resources.

Further information can be found on our website. The link below will take you to a page containing a wealth of interesting and useful information.

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