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Statewide campaign aims to keep youth from menthol-flavored tobacco

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Local and statewide health partners are preparing to relaunch a youth anti-smoking campaign to counter the marketing of menthol flavors. They say Big Tobacco is banking on the additive to get youth addicted and create life-long smokers.

The “It’s Not Just” campaign aims to shed light on what they call inequitable marketing efforts. Tobacco-Free Onondaga County Public Health Educator Rachel Russell says menthol flavors in cigarettes or vaping are highly addictive.

"So the minty flavor of menthol actually masks the harness of tobacco, and it provides a cooling sensation in the mouth and throat. This is what makes tobacco more appealing to young, new smokers. And that cooling sensation from menthol also triggers the tobacco user to inhale deeper, actually increasing the risk of nicotine addiction."

Tobacco companies spend an estimated $8.4 billion to target youth with their products and get them started before age 21. Menthol flavors in cigarettes and other banned vaping flavors are still being sold at stores because of a loophole. However, the FDA plans to address the liquid nicotine flavors and has also taken a position on the menthol flavor in all forms.

"So they will be taking steps to ban menthol. So that kind of in the works right now, and I predict the tobacco industry will respond to that. So, we're just kind of waiting to see this play out."

The groups want youth to be aware of the negative health impacts and shorter life expectancies that smoking can cause. They point to research that shows youth in Black communities are successfully reached by tobacco marketing and promotion.

The “It’s Not Just” Campaign will include powerful images on billboards and online, and contain direct quotes from tobacco executives to provide a sense of how youth are viewed by the tobacco industry.

More information can be found at

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.