Attend panel: Tobacco-related health disparities & targeting underserved populations

November 9, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

On Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 5 p.m., MHealthy Tobacco Consultation Service (TCS) will host a panel discussion, “Social Justice and Tobacco Control: Impact on Underserved Populations,” at the U-M School of Public Health.

Held in support of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, the discussion will cover the public health impact of tobacco use and look at the tobacco-related disparities resulting from tobacco industry practices that target underserved communities. Focus will also be given to what can be done to reduce tobacco-related health disparities.

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. Unfortunately, many racial and ethnic minority groups, the LGBTQ community, people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and low-income communities are hit hardest. These populations have documented higher rates of tobacco use, higher death rates and shorter survival rates from tobacco-related diseases.

Growing up in Southwest Detroit, Alena Williams, a tobacco treatment specialist for TCS, experienced firsthand the deadly effects of long-term tobacco use and the aggressive tactics the tobacco industry uses to target underserved populations.

“Tobacco advertisements were everywhere in my neighborhood — in the gas station windows directly across the street from my middle school and on what seemed like every other corner, which was occupied by liquor stores with their doors and windows covered with cigarette advertisements,” recalled Alena.

“My mother was also a life-long smoker, having begun in her teens. For as long as I can remember, she smoked a pack of menthol cigarettes every day, in the morning, at night, in the car and at work during breaks. We had many conversations about her desire to quit smoking, her struggle with nicotine dependence and how difficult it was to overcome the addiction.

“Shortly after I finished my undergraduate studies at U-M, she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Even after starting radiation and chemotherapy, she reduced the amount of cigarettes she smoked but could not quit completely. My mother died a little over a year after her initial diagnosis. She was only 50 years old.”

Alena said the loss of her mother as well as the effects on her community led her to dedicate her career to helping those struggling with tobacco.

“Targeting underserved communities continues to this day,” said Alena. “Tobacco ads are still more prevalent in African-American neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods, tobacco companies continue to make large donations to LGBTQ organization and sponsor pride and other LGBTQ community events, and tobacco retailers are still much more likely to populate areas near low-income schools than near schools in more affluent neighborhoods.”

Professionals and students interested in health care and social justice and anyone interested in learning more about how the tobacco industry targets marginalized populations are encouraged to attend the Nov. 14 panel discussion.

Panelists include experts in the field of tobacco treatment, policy and control, including:

  • Lincoln Mondy, progressive communication strategist, and creator, Black Lives/Black Lungs
  • Cliff Douglas, vice president for tobacco control, American Cancer Society (ACS); director, ACS Center for Tobacco Control; director, U-M Tobacco Research Network; and adjunct professor, U-M School of Public Health
  • Kate Donaldson, health educator, District Heath Department #10
  • Lilianna Reyes, program services director and tobacco treatment specialist, Affirmations

MHealthy, the university’s health and well-being service, is pleased to offer this event at no cost, however, registration is required. The evening also includes a reception immediately following the discussion. More details are available on the MHealthy website.