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Health, Equity Leaders Speak Out to End the Sale of Flavored Tobacco in Chicago

Today, equity and inclusion leaders in Chicago and public health groups came together to urge the Chicago City Council to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. The new law would help end the tobacco industry’s targeting of our youth and communities of color.

“Despite many regulations designed to keep tobacco products out of the hands of children, the fact of the matter is that the tobacco industry has targeted our youth by offering flavors such as Loopy Pebbles, Fuji Apple, Strawberry Nectarine, Mango Cheesecake, Strawberry Churro Ice Cream, Watermelon Gummy, I Love Cookies, and more,” said Ald. Matt O’Shea, Alderman, 19th Ward. “Given the link between respiratory issues and the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we act now to protect young people from a lifetime of tobacco addiction. We are at a critical time where we have the opportunity to save children’s lives by getting these products out of circulation. It is imperative that we act now to save our next generation from a lifetime of health issues.” 

"Racial disparities affect every part of our lives in Chicago -- with white residents living an average of nine years longer than Black residents. Flavored tobacco may be the single biggest cause of that gap, particularly because individuals often begin their tobacco use as teenagers. It's time for us to quit flavored tobacco and bring greater equity to our city," said Bishop Horace Smith, M.D., Apostolic Faith Church, Lurie Children’s Hospital and Chicago Board of Health.

“Chicago is a world-class city, but it is also home to our nation’s worst life-expectancy gap, with some residents of the Gold Coast expected to live into their 90s while residents of Englewood generally only live to be 60. A similar level of health disparity can be seen across poor, predominantly Black communities in Chicago, and it did not happen by accident. Among other factors, the tobacco industry has sought to increase their profits at the expense of our health for generations.  For the sake of our children and the generations of Chicagoans to come, we must reclaim our health and end tobacco’s grip on our city’s most vulnerable residents,” said Calmetta Coleman, senior VP of external affairs & programs at Chicago Urban League.

“If we truly want to bridge the gaps in health and longevity in minority populations’ quality of life, we need to address the root causes of disease and death. The tempting flavors infused into a variety of tobacco products continue to hook young people, especially in minority and marginalized communities where marketing is strong, but compliance with current laws to protect youth is weak. We need to take this loophole out of circulation and help people reduce their risk of acute and chronic diseases that take a toll on their health and prosperity,” saidJavier Guevara, Jr., MD, Family physician for PrimeCare Community Health Center, and Illinois Academy of Family Physicians member.

"Removal of all flavorings from nicotine containing products - inclusive of menthol flavoring - represents both common sense and equitable public health policy," said Dr. Phoenix Matthews, associate dean for equity and inclusion in the College of Nursing at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Tobacco companies have long used flavors to aggressively lure kids into being lifelong customers. Restricting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, hookah and smokeless tobacco will also help protect our kids. City council shouldn’t wait to ensure our kids are protected from tobacco’s deadly toll. At current usage rates, 230,000 kids under 18 in Illinois right now will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.

This law is especially important with the COVID-19 pandemic because, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who smoke are at a 2.4 times higher risk for severe complications than non-smokers. 

Sponsors of the bill include Matthew O’Shea, Roderick Sawyer, Silvana Tabares, Stephanie Coleman, Daniel La Spata, Brian Hopkins, Michelle Harris, Susan Sadlowski Garza, Derrick Curtis, Michael Rodriguez, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Ariel Reboyras, Scott Waguespack, Andre Casquez, Michele Smith, James Gardiner, James Cappleman, Matthew Martin, Harry Osterman, Maria Hadden, Debra Silverstein, Gilbert Villegas and Pat Dowell.

A number of local and national organizations support this ordinance, including Advocate Aurora Health, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Alliance for Community Peace, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Indian Health Service of Chicago, American Lung Association, AMITA, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Apostolic Faith Church (Bishop Horace Smith), Asian Health Coalition, Bright Start Community Church & Community Outreach (Rev. Chris Harris), Bronzeville Life, Build Inc., Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Chicago Area Project, Chicago Board of Health President Carolyn Lopez, Chicago Dental Society, Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago State University, Chicago Urban League, Claretian Associates, Defender Charities, District Outreach Initiatives, Endeleo Institute, Family Life Center, Far South Community Action Council, Gads Hill, Grand Boulevard Prevention Service, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp, Healthcare Alternative Systems, Healthy Washington Heights, Helping Communities Help Themselves, Hip Hop Detoxx, Howard Brown Health, I Am Able Trauma Center,  IL Health and Hospital Association, IL State Medical Society, IL Academy of Family Physicians, IL Academy of Pediatrics, IL Coalition Against Tobacco, IL Public Health Association, Loyola Medical Center, March of Dimes, Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, My Block, My Hood, My City, New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church (Rev. Marshall Hatch), Northern IL Public Health Consortium, Northwestern, Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, Peer Plus Education and Training Advocates, People For Community Recovery, PrimeCareHealth Chicago, Progressive Community Church (B. Herbert Martin, Emeritus), Project BrotherHood, Project Hood (Help Others To Obtain Destiny), P.R.O.J.E.C.T Restore Ties, Respiratory Health Association, Robert Sengstacke Foundation, Sisters Working It Out, Team Englewood, Thornton Reformer Gazette NFP Digital Newspaper, True Star Media and Foundation, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Cancer Center, UI Health, and YMCA Alliance.

For more information, contact:

Jill Thompson
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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