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Billboard campaign takes aim at tobacco campaigns targeting black and brown communities

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Posted at 6:07 AM, Oct 19, 2021

CLEVELAND — Ohio is still one of the top 15 states for smoking.

More than 1.8 million adults in the state, or 21% of the population, were considered smokers in 2018, according to the American Lung Associationand low-income communities are suffering from the long-term effects the most.

Through data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the group reports 14.6% of smokers across the nation are Black. In addition, more than three-quarters of Black smokers say their usual cigarette brand is menthol, which is more than twice the next highest rate seen among Hispanics. Menthol cigarettes have historically targeted Black people with some past campaigns offering free cigarettes in urban areas.

“They've been targeted for death and our choice is for them to choose life,” said Yvonka Hall, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition.

Hall says it’s why her team helped create a new billboard campaign showcasing how our local leaders, national entertainers and family members have suffered because of their smoking habits. The campaign slogan is “you have been targeted.”

“We wanted to make sure that their understanding that these are real people, these are people in their communities and this could be them,” Hall explained.

Hall says advertising messages are going after younger people by pushing menthol e-cigarettes and vaping products. Recent numbers from the Food and Drug Administration and CDC reveal more than two million high school and middle school students nationwide are vaping and 85% of them choose flavored e-cigarettes.

“We want these young people to take pictures in front of the billboards and then tell us what their quit date is going to be,” she said. “Life is making sure that they're doing everything they can to make sure that their lungs are free from disease and healthy.”

The Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition is conducting a survey to better understand how Ohioans are impacted by smoking and how it's affecting their personal health. To participate, click here.