The Great American Smokeout, a Day to Call for Action on Disparities in Tobacco Use

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SPRINGFIELD –The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network  is marking the American Cancer Society’s 45th annual Great American Smokeout happening Thursday by calling on state lawmakers to protect the health of our youth, residents with lower incomes, LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color by passing strong tobacco control legislation that overcomes Big Tobacco’s manipulative tactics that target these community members. As our battle with COVID-19 continues, we must do everything in our power to keep all our communities healthy and safe—which means building strong public health infrastructure including comprehensive tobacco control measures. 

Big Tobacco has spent decades aggressively marketing flavored tobacco products in order to hook and addict youth, people with lower incomes, LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color. Their targeted marketing strategies have led to disparities in tobacco use, including higher use of tobacco products. The tobacco industry has used menthol for decades to intentionally and aggressively target certain communities for addiction to their deadly products. As a result, Blacks consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use.

The lack of comprehensive tobacco control laws and funding in a locality or state can further contribute to disparities in tobacco use. The $739.7 million the states have budgeted for tobacco prevention amounts to just 22.4% of the $3.3 billion the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for all states combined.

Public policy changes can and must serve as the main way to shield against and reverse longstanding inequalities – but it must be done comprehensively and with the well-being of those most affected in mind.

Long after this pandemic passes, people deserve to live full, healthy lives free from the problems of tobacco use. State lawmakers should act to protect the $4.1 million for Illinois’s tobacco quitline and $10 million for tobacco prevention and cessation Through this initiative, we can truly continue to reduce health disparities and reduce the toll of tobacco on our state for everyone.

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