September 19, 2023

Duckworth, Durbin Announce $375,000 To Address Disparities In Chicago Communities Caused By Menthol And Tobacco Usage


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced $375,000 for the City of Chicago through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Building Capacity to Reduce the Burden of Menthol and Other Flavored Commercial Tobacco Products in Communities that Experience Health Disparities Program.” This funding will help advance health equity through strategic partnerships and community engagement to address disparities caused by menthol cigarette use and other flavored tobacco product marketing and use.

“For far too long, tobacco has been a barrier to health equity for working communities of color,” Duckworth said. “Reducing its harm requires a comprehensive effort and I will keep doing everything I can to help ensure programs for addressing health disparities have the federal resources they need to serve Illinois’s communities.”

“Throughout history, Big Tobacco has prayed on children, women, and communities of color. It is imperative that we confront the deceptive marketing practices employed by tobacco companies, which have targeted vulnerable communities with their deadly and addictive products,” said Durbin. “With this federal funding, Chicago will be able to focus on education and awareness tactics that will help reduce tobacco use and improve health outcomes for our communities of color.”

This funding will help the City of Chicago 1) promote and support social, economic and community change; 2) educate the public, community leaders, partners and decision makers on policy, systems and environmental changes that can prevent and reduce menthol tobacco use; 3) implement culturally appropriate interventions tailored for community needs; and 4) use research, surveillance and evaluation to measure progress made and inform public health action.

Earlier this year, Duckworth and Durbin joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and 18 of their colleagues in sending a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf urging FDA to promptly finalize its April 28, 2022, announced proposed rules to end the sale of menthol flavor in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars.  

For more than 50 years, the tobacco industry has targeted Black Americans with pervasive marketing of menthol cigarettes through sponsorship of community and music events, magazine advertising and retail promotions. Today, menthol cigarettes continue to be heavily advertised, widely available and priced cheaper in Black communities, making them especially appealing to price-sensitive youth.  In the 1950s, less than 10 percent of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes. Today, about 85 percent of Black smokers smoke menthols (three times the rate of white smokers). While Black smokers smoke less, they die of heart attacks, strokes and other causes linked to tobacco use at higher rates than white smokers, and have lower success rates of quitting.