The story of inequity and inequality is not a new one in our state’s history, and the COVID 19 pandemic has brought to the forefront several long standing issues that have historically plagued minority communities.
One such issue is the predatory and targeted efforts of the Big Tobacco industry to hook Black and Brown communities, particularly our youth, to flavored tobacco products. Worse still, we know tobacco use increases the risk of contracting COVID 19, making this product and our pandemic even more deadly for the communities Big Tobacco targets.
In an effort to protect our citizens from a toxic product that contributes to 7,500 deaths in Maryland each year as well as roughly $2.9 billion in related health care costs, we are sponsoring legislation that will end the sale of flavored tobacco products.
For decades, Big Tobacco has pursued explicitly racialized marketing strategies for menthol cigarettes, the most widespread flavored tobacco product. In fact, researchers drawing on hundreds of tobacco industry documents found that Big Tobacco utilized a pattern of “highly targeted menthol cigarette marketing” concentrated in communities “populated predominantly by low-income African American residents” since the 1960s.
Menthol is easier to smoke given its minty taste and cooling sensation. It’s a smart marketing strategy because Big Tobacco knows that nicotine stores itself in tissues that contain melanin, the substance that gives color to our skin. The darker your skin,