The tobacco industry has aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes to black communities. Consequently, black smokers are 11 times more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than white smokers. Because the flavor masks the harsh burn of traditional cigarettes, smokers take longer, deeper inhales, increasing the amount of nicotine inhaled, making menthol cigarettes more addictive and a greater health risk.
Yet menthol-flavored tobacco products have not been regulated like other flavored items. The campaign to change that has earned first place in the “Community Outreach Campaign” (Health Care PR and Marketing division) category of the PR Daily Awards.
Public Health Solutions (a public health nonprofit serving New York City) and strategic communications firm Group Gordon launched a large-scale PR, advertising and marketing campaign to deter use of menthol cigarettes and vapes, notably among the black communities and youth in New York. In addition to educating the community about the danger of menthols, the campaign also encouraged smoking cessation and sought to motivate the city council to restrict sales.
The ad campaign featured an ad illustrating the high menthol use among black communities and big tobacco’s targeted marketing. The ads appeared in digital and print media outlets and out-of-home venues (like subway stations).
Op-eds and expert commentary were other campaign components, along with peer-to-peer communication and partnerships with 65 organizations. Social media was employed to share relevant news and support partner efforts.
Nearly 3 million impressions were gained, along with more than 7,500 clicks to the NYC Smoke-Free website. The city council was due to vote on menthol sales restrictions by the end of 2019.
Congratulations to Lisa David, Deidre Sully, Lisa Jakobsberg, Hillary Wasserman and Genevieve Friedman.