As tobacco-related death in the Black community continues to rise amid aggressive tobacco marketing, campaign encourages Black youth and young adults to spark conversation and demand change

At a time when the deep-seated structural and social inequities facing Black Americans are being brought to the forefront, the tobacco industry continues its aggressive, decades-long tactics of targeting its deadly products to Black communities. This business-as-usual approach is even more problematic as the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionally affecting Black Americans—including those who smoke or vape.

In a calling to eradicate Big Tobacco’s systemic racism, truth—the proven-effective, nationally recognized youth smoking, vaping and nicotine prevention effort from Truth Initiative—partnered with Black community members and activists to launch its latest campaign Read Between the Lies. Led and promoted by Black voices, the campaign will run across broadcast, digital and social networks. Central to the campaign are videos featuring Black voices reading and reacting to actual quotes from tobacco industry executives revealing the deliberate and exploitive ways they target the Black community. The videos are directed by young black filmmaker Rodney Lucas, known for creating meaningful and inspiring videos through the lens of Black voices.  

Among the activists featured in the campaign is Lincoln Mondy, who documented the systemic racism that results in higher menthol tobacco use in Black communities in his film, Black Lives / Black Lungs. “I turned my anger into action, and I hope that my documentary and campaigns like this continue to encourage others to go out and do something,” said Mondy. “That kind of spiral effect I think will start the drumbeat of what needs to happen in this country in framing smoking and vaping as a social justice issue.”

The campaign comes at a time when African Americans have higher death rates from tobacco-related causes compared to other racial and ethnic groups – with more than 39,000 dying from tobacco-related cancers each year. Nearly 90% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, which are easier to smoke and harder to quit, thanks to the decades-long, aggressive marketing tactics employed by menthol cigarette makers. These include placing more advertising in predominantly black neighborhoods and in publications that are popular with Black audiences, as well as supporting events like jazz and hip-hop festivals.

Further, in 2019, 17.7% of African American high school students and 8.6% of African American middle school students currently used e-cigarettes.  Accordingly to recent data, young people who have ever used e-cigarettes are 5 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to those who do not use tobacco products, and dual users of cigarettes and e-cigarettes were nearly 7 times more likely to test positive. This is especially concerning, as Black individuals are becoming sick from COVID-19 at three times the rate of Whites and are twice as likely to die from the disease than Whites.

To help broaden awareness and engage young Black voices to inspire change, truth is providing a toolkit that enables participants to share their stories about exploitation by the tobacco industry utilizing the hashtag #ReadBetweenTheLies. truth is also partnering with TikTok and Instagram influencers Taylor CassidyJohnathan WilsonJoshua JosephMakell Taylor and Gondre Smith, who will engage their followers to create a duet via TikTok to help spread the word. That effort launches on Thursday, October 15th.

“It’s time to expose Big Tobacco for capitalizing off of Black communities,” said Taylor Cassidy. “If using my platform can bring awareness to the tobacco industry’s hidden agenda, #ReadBetweenTheLies lets me encourage people to stand up against it.”

The campaign invites viewers to go online to learn more about health disparities in the Black community, Big Tobacco’s history of targeting Black Americans and learn about ways to take positive action and support Black creators. Content includes interviews with Director Rodney Lucas, visual artist and social justice movement supporter Victoria Casanova, and director/activist Lincoln Mondy.

Read Between the Lies builds on prior truth campaign efforts which call out the industry’s racial profiling tactics.

For more information about truth, please visit, thetruth.com.

Public Support for E-Cigarette-related Policies among a Nationally Representative Sample of US Adults, Tobacco Use Insights (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7549073/?ct=t(EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_11_2020)

In this study, researchers measured public support for e-cigarette related policies and assessed differences in support by demographics, tobacco use, geographic region, and strength of state-level clean indoor air policies. A nationally representative online panel of U.S. adults was asked about their support for 5 policies: (1) a policy which requires that tobacco products, like e-cigarettes and cigarettes, be kept out of view in stores where adolescents shop; (2) a ban on the sale of fruit, alcohol, or candy flavored e-cigarettes; (3) a policy that would prohibit use of e-cigarettes in all public places; (4) a policy that would prohibit use of e-cigarettes in restaurant; and (5) a policy that would prohibit use of e-cigarettes in bars. A majority of respondents (63.3%) supported a flavor ban, with no differences in support by smoking status. Most respondents supported keeping tobacco products out of view (78.0%) and prohibiting e-cigarette use in indoor public places (82.9%), restaurants (86.5%), and bars (76.1%). This study suggests an increase in public support for e-cigarette policies. Learn more about e-cigs at the point-of-sale and related policy options.

2003-2007

What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

I served six years in the Air Force. Serving in South Korea, Oman, and other various countries. I’ve been happily Married for 8 years. Two daughters Avah(8) and Evelynne(5). I’ve recently graduated with an associates degree from the University of Wisconsin-Rock County and will be soon graduating with a Bachelors degree Political Science and Education degree from the Universitiy of Wisconsin-Parkside.

What are you most proud of?

My daughters.

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

I am aware of the damage that certain substances can do to my body and mind.

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

Work hard for your goals and don’t be afraid to fail.

2008-2012
What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

After graduation I went up north to Northland College in Ashland, WI. I studied and recieved a degree in Business with Minors in Sociology in Social Justice and Enviromental Studies. During my time as an undergraduate student I held many internships including an outreach internship with the American Lung Association, marketing and financial internship for Ancientwood Ltd, and office assistant to the department of student life. My time with Youth2Youth helped me become an active staff member for the student government at Northland as well.

From there, i went on to receive a Master Degree in Higher Education from Walden University with a focus on Student Success and Outcomes. I currently work as an Admissions Counselor for Northland, counseling students through their college search process.

What are you most proud of?

I would say I am most proud of my educational backgrounds as they have really opened my mind to new opportunities and networks i can draw on.

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

For me, my time woth Youth2Youth really helped me be comfortable in social settings and with public speaking. I use these skills in my career and while pursuing both degrees!

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and jump on an amazing opportunity when it presents itself. These are things you will take with you for a lifetime, and can unearth things about yourself that you may have never discovered otherwise (speaking from my own story).

2006-2010
What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

I have graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in biology, been employed for 3 years now as a paid-on-call firefighter/paramedic with Town of Beloit Fire Dept, and am now the Town of Beloit’s Special Project Coordinator. This year was my first year organizing the Town’s annual Festival on the Rock.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being able to serve the community in which I grew up.

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

Thanks to the Youth2Youth school presentations, I have confidence speaking in front of others and an ability to work well with a team.

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

Stick to what you believe in, even if it’s not a popular opinion.

2003-2007
What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

After graduating from Parker High School I attended UW Madison and received a BA in English with a Certificate in European Studies. After that I attended Oregon State University where I received a BS in Agriculture with minors in Natural Resource Management and Business/Entrepreneurship. I currently work in special education as both a high school paraprofessional and a PATH Intl. Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of continuing to stand up for the things I believe in and work toward encouraging more openness and acceptance in those around me. I am a vocal advocate for mental health awareness and positive health and wellness.

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

Youth2Youth taught me about the importance of networking and public speaking skills. Since graduating from Parker I have been able to start my own business and speak at national and international conferences about therapeutic riding, health and wellness, and special education.

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

Stand firm in your beliefs but be open to accepting and openly thinking about the opinions of others.

2008-2011
What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

I spent 6.5 years in college, studied abroad twice, moved to South Carolina from Wisconsin, transferred universities twice, & graduated with a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree. I am now a registered nurse in critical care at a non-profit hospital in Columbia, South Carolina.

What are you most proud of?

I am the first person in my family to graduate from college.

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

I gained experience in educating the local community & I have used those skills every single day in nursing when I educate my patients & my community members in Columbia. I learned the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes and as a result I have chosen to never pick up a cigarette in my life. I educated my father, who has smoked or 45+ years, & he has chosen to quit. I gained public speaking skills, which I used to advocate for the nursing profession while studying health care in Germany.

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

Continue to participate in Y2Y & advocate for their advancement. I gained several skills from participating in Y2Y, and I had so much fun while doing it.

2008-2014
What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

I am happily engaged, and I am a photographer!

What are you most proud of?

I am still 100% smoke free!

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

I learned how to be a leader, and being in Youth2Youth helped my public speaking skills so much!

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

All of the information you learn in Youth2Youth will stay with you. Listen to your leaders and follow your goals.

2009-2015
What have you been doing with your life since graduating from Youth2Youth?

I have been attending Arizona State University studying United States History, with minors in Art History and French.

During Spring 2018, I studied abroad in Lyon, France. I actively participate in my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and I was philanthropy chair for one year. I also was a Senator for Undergraduate Student Government for two years.

What are you most proud of?

As of now, I am most proud of the work I did as an intern at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. I interned in the archives, and helped do research to update one of the ongoing exhibits at the museum.

How have skills you learned in Youth2Youth helped you in your life beyond Youth2Youth?

Through Youth2Youth, I became comfortable and confident in speaking to groups of people, old and young. This organization also helped me become comfortable with myself.

What advice would you give to today’s Youth2Youth members?

It is important to be yourself. It is a cliche, but knowing who I am has helped me follow my dreams, and positvely impacted those around me. There is a lot of trial and error to this, however.