A Letter From the Director

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to introduce the Inland Empire Smoke Out Initiative (I.E.S.O.), a new project at the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce (RCBCC). I.E. Smoke Out Initiative is part of the California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) through the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The Inland Empire Smoke Out Project aims to save lives and improve the health of African Americans in the Tri-County South Region by reducing illness, and premature death resulting from the use of flavored tobacco and other mentholated products. We strive to educate the African American community about the truth behind flavored tobacco and empower our communities to create policies banning flavored tobacco products in their cities.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that smoking is one of the leading causes of premature death among African Americans. According to Tobacco Free California, tobacco is immensely destructive in African American/Black communities, causing more deaths than AIDS, accidents, and homicide combined. Tobacco companies’ manipulative tactics have led to African American/Black communities experiencing the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. Big Tobacco systematically targets African American/Black communities by plastering neighborhood stores with deceptive ads, and offering discounts on their products. Studies have found there are up to 10x more tobacco ads in neighborhoods where people predominantly identify as African American/Black, particularly for menthol cigarettes, which Big Tobacco has specifically pushed in the community for years.

Unfortunately, the tactics have worked. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 9 out of 10 African Americans smoke menthol cigarettes. Big Tobacco aggressively targeted communities and, as a result, some populations have higher rates of tobacco use, experience greater secondhand smoke exposure at work and at home, and have higher rates of tobacco-related disease than the general population.

With Tobacco’s aggressive tactics working, we are appealing to each of you to join our fight as we are going into a David and Goliath Fight (I.E.S.O. vs. Big Tobacco). This can be done if we all stand together and no longer allow Big Tobacco to trick our Community; as one Tobacco Executive says: “We don’t smoke that S–t, we leave that to the young, dumb and the Blacks” We can no longer stand on the sideline and allow them (Big Tobacco) to misuse our Communities. We need your support to take back our Community. Contact the I.E.S.O. today!

Dr. Bobby Sheffield