Newly released report pulls data from NYS Cancer Registry, US Census and recent research

  • 144 Buffalo residents die from lung cancer per year
  • Eliminating sales could prevent more than 700 premature deaths
  • Companies historically market menthol products in communities of color

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Today, researchers from the Health Behavior Department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center released a report showing the potential impacts of eliminating the sale of menthol cigarettes in the City of Buffalo. Their analysis was uncovered from data sources including the New York State Cancer Registry, the United State Census Bureau and other recent research on the impact of menthol cigarette bans.

“The scientific evidence in this report points to a clear conclusion,” says Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of the Health Behavior Department at Roswell Park and Director of the New York State Smokers’ Quitline. “Eliminating the sale of menthol cigarettes will save hundreds of lives in our city, particularly among Black people, who smoke menthol cigarettes at a far higher rate than other people who smoke.”

Key findings:

  • There are 144 deaths from lung cancer in Buffalo per year, including 41 deaths from lung cancer among Black people who live in the City of Buffalo per year. That means one Black person from Buffalo is lost to cigarette smoking almost every week, and for most of them, it was a menthol cigarette, designed to promote addiction and target marketed to them, that first got them hooked.
  • A City of Buffalo ban on menthol cigarettes will prevent an estimated 734 premature deaths in the City of Buffalo, including 480 premature deaths among people who are Black.

“Tobacco’s influence in my family spans generations, tracing back to my great grandmother, and her mother on a Virginia tobacco plantation,” says Sarah Pearson-Collins, Director of Training, Development, and Support for the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at Roswell Park and owner of Race Card LLC, a platform dedicated to fostering candid discussions surrounding race, disparities, and discrimination. “From planting tobacco, to picking tobacco, to chewing tobacco and ultimately smoking it, tobacco, particularly menthol cigarettes, was intricately woven into the fabric of my family’s history, too often resulting in death. As we share this report today, let it be a springboard for our community to work together towards a tobacco-free future, where stories like mine are lessons learned, not dire omens for future generations.”

The report also unveils additional facts:

  • Although overall smoking prevalence has decreased over the years, menthol cigarette prevalence has remained constant among people who are Black and smoke cigarettes.
  • Added menthol flavor in cigarettes “sweetens the poison.” The minty, cool sensation makes it more appealing to young people to start smoking and harder for adults who smoke to quit.
  • Cigarette companies have historically aggressively marketed menthol-flavored tobacco products to communities of racial and ethnic minorities.
  • This marketing contributes to people who identify as Black and smoke being more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other population groups; 86% of people who smoke cigarettes in New York who are Black use a menthol cigarette brand.
  • Women, young people, racial and ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ+ people, people with a low income, and people who experience mental health conditions also are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other population groups.
  • Black men have high rates of developing and dying from lung cancer, most of which is caused by menthol cigarettes.
  • Studies show that policies that prevent the sale of menthol cigarettes have boosted quit rates and are saving lives.

“For more than 60 years and continuing today, the tobacco industry has targeted Black communities, especially our youth, with pervasive marketing for menthol cigarettes through sponsorship of community and music events, free sampling, magazine ads and retail promotions. This predatory act has had a devastating impact on Black health and lives here in Buffalo. We hope that this report becomes an important first step for us to come together as a community to cut down on tobacco-related health disparities and prevent new generations of Black Buffalonians from getting hooked by these deadly products,” says Stan Martin, public health advocate and CEO/Founder of Stan Martin Consulting.

“Smoking related illness surpasses all other causes of death in the black community – that includes AIDS, homicide, diabetes and accidents. Much of this illness is directly tied to menthol flavored tobacco which is heavily targeted to youth of color and the LGBTQIA+ community,” says Pastor George Nicholas, CEO of the Buffalo Center for Health Equity and Senior Pastor of the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church. “As faith leaders, we have a moral responsibility to do what’s right. I am urging elected officials at the city, county, state and federal level to work together to remove menthol tobacco from the shelves in the city of Buffalo.”

Help is available for quitting

The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a confidential service for all New York State residents who wish to overcome dependence on commercial tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Free offerings include individualized coaching and assistance with quit-planning from highly trained tobacco treatment specialists, text and online chat support and free shipping of stop-smoking medications such as nicotine patches, nicotine lozenges or nicotine gum for those 18 and older.

Residents of all ages may contact the Quitline for support and educational materials. In addition, the Quitline encourages teens and young adults (ages 13-24) to text “DROPTHEVAPE” to 88709 to join “This Is Quitting,” a free texting support program for help with quitting vaping. For more information, text QUITNOW to 333888 or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m.