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Tobacco Impedes Social Justice

Public health, and more specifically tobacco control, sits at the vortex of many important social issues such as development, human rights, law, and social justice.

Tobacco companies have been aggressively targeting African Americans for generations with menthol cigarettes. As a result, over 85% of African Americans who smoke, smoke menthol cigarettes, and the consequences are dire.  Although African Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking cigarettes at an older age, they are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than other populations, in large part due to compounding social inequities such as lack of access to healthcare and racism in the healthcare system.

In the United States, and in many other countries, social justice is often synonymous with racial equality and equity, but social justice is broader than that. Social justice recognizes the need for the “the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”

For example, some high-income countries allow tobacco corporations to manufacture cigarettes in their countries and export them to others, usually lower income countries. The higher income countries negatively impact social justice in countries whose markets are being flooded with foreign made cigarettes, contributing to the shift of the burden of disease from high income countries to low-income countries. As a result, over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

In honor of World Day of Social Justice this year, the UN is fostering dialogue and encouraging new opportunities for social justice.

We encourage you to take a look at ASH’s programs that do just that – we strive to further health equity through ambitious and sometimes radical programs. ASH’s litigation program sued the U.S. FDA over their inaction on menthol, and our human rights program works to hold governments responsible for protecting their citizens from the harms of big tobacco. Learn more by reading Tobacco industry: a barrier to social justice.

At ASH, we work towards social justice every day by upholding human rights, and the production, marketing, and sale of tobacco is a barrier to that goal.

Thank you for your continued support of our work. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today to help ASH combat the tobacco epidemic.