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Letter: Young people are best hope to end targeting by Big Tobacco
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Did you know tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer? While tobacco use in America has declined, its health effects continue to negatively impact certain communities more than others.

In North Georgia and the rest of the U.S., smoking disproportionately affects many underserved communities such as those in low-income areas, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community and those suffering from mental illness. These groups have been targeted by the tobacco industry for decades. The facts are shocking:

A recent study found low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have tobacco retailers near schools than other neighborhoods. The tobacco industry even went to the Supreme Court to ensure it could continue to sell products near schools.

So what does all this mean? Its not marketing, its targeting. And the impact is quite disturbing:

• The marketing and promotion of menthol cigarettes have been targeted heavily toward African-Americans. More than 88 percent of African-American smokers ages 12 and older prefer menthols. Each year, approximately 47,000 African-Americans die from smoking-related disease.

• LGBTQ young adults ages 18-24 are nearly two times as likely to smoke as their straight peers. Individuals with mental illness account for up to 46 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States.

• People living below the poverty level in the U.S. are nearly twice as likely to smoke, compared to those at or above the poverty level.

• In 2000, 23 percent of U.S. teens smoked cigarettes. Today, that number has dropped to just 6 percent. This means an overwhelming majority, 94 percent, don’t smoke cigarettes.

But the fight against Big Tobacco is far from over. While the smoking rate among teens has dropped as a whole, there are still certain communities affected more than others due to targeting. That’s one of the reasons truth, one of largest and most successful youth smoking prevention initiatives, launched the #FinishIT campaign in 2014, which seeks to empower smokers and nonsmokers and make this generation the one to end tobacco use.

During this year’s Grammy Awards, truth released a series of videos called #STOPPROFILING, which showed how Big Tobacco targets these communities.

Its easy to help.  Call out the tobacco industry profiling as it happens by tagging @truthorange and #STOPPROFILING; truth is mobilizing youth nationwide via thetruth.com; and can get involved by texting truth to 69866.

Our generation needs to lead the conversation around tobacco control and shine a light on the industry’s targeted marketing of its products. We can evoke real change and stop Big Tobacco right in its tracks. 

Local schools like North Hall High School and the University of North Georgia are joining the cause by  implementing smoke-free campuses and encouraging students take a stand against tobacco. With tobacco cessation programs, help-lines and various outlets, Hall County schools are teaching our youth the truth and creating a brighter, healthier and smoke-free future. Knowledge is power and the students of Hall County are leading the way.

Together, we can be the ones to end smoking for good!

Lindsey Frazier
Oakwood

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