Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also issues proclamation for the City of Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI – On Sunday, city and faith leaders, health advocates, retailers and others will celebrate “No Menthol Sunday,” a national day of observance led by the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and supported locally by the Wisconsin African-American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN). They will mark the day by giving virtual sermons discussing the impact of menthol tobacco use on communities of color, warning congregants that smoking can weaken your immune system and put you at higher risks of severe illness or death from COVID-19, and sharing other information on tobacco.
“No Menthol Sunday encourages faith leaders to talk about the importance of living healthy lives—not only for the sake of one’s own sacred physical body, but for the sake of the African-American community as a whole,” read part of a proclamation issued by Gov. Tony Evers declaring May 17, 2020 as “No Menthol Sunday” in the State of Wisconsin.
No Menthol Sunday has been celebrated in Milwaukee for the past five years, last year reaching over 4,000 congregants. This year it’s gone statewide activities planned in Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Beloit and in Walworth County.
Tobacco kills 45,000 African Americans a year. The most commonly used tobacco product among African Americans is menthol cigarettes. Smoking is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African Americans, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the CDC.
“Tobacco, and particularly menthol, is a major contributor to health disparities in the City of Milwaukee,” said Mayor Tom Barrett, who issued a proclamation for the City of Milwaukee. “No Menthol Sunday helps to raise awareness about menthol’s impact on health and helps faith leaders support congregants on their “quit” journeys.”
In Wisconsin, the smoking rate for African-Americans is 26%, a much higher rate than the state’s general adult population (16%). Menthol, a product used by 9 of 10 African-American adult smokers in Wisconsin, is a peppermint flavored anesthetic tobacco companies added to reduce the harshness of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The Menthol additive makes it easier to start and harder to quit. Although African Americans start smoking at a later age and smoke less, they are more likely to die from tobacco use, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The WAATPN has led local efforts to spread awareness about menthol, and has also conducted research locally. The group has been organizing faith leaders to spread a message that could affect change in the health of their congregations and also let individuals know that they will be supported in their “quit” journeys. In addition, several Milwaukee retailers have agreed to not sell tobacco products on No Menthol Sunday, a grand gesture considering the pandemic related struggles of the economy. This year, the national theme of No Menthol Sunday is “awaken” which urges congregants to stay “woke” about current issues related to tobacco use and tobacco prevention and up-to-date about policy efforts that can help protect Black health.
“We want our community to be aware of tobacco industry tactics to utilize flavors like menthol to addict African Americans to cigarettes and other tobacco products and lure young customers,” said pastor Joy Gallmon of St. Mark AME Church.
No Menthol Sunday Wisconsin Resources: Waatpn.com