NAACP President Derrick Johnson Is Being Awarded For His Efforts To Ban Menthol Cigarettes

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Derrick Johnson, NAACP, Champion Award,

Source: Robin L Marshall / Getty

On Thursday, Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, will be honored with the highest accolade —  the Champion Award — for his effort to combat the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing tactics targeting Black Americans and children.

Created by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. — the Champion Award celebrates individuals who have made the most substantial contribution to reducing tobacco use and spreading awareness about its dangerous side effects.

MORE: Why Do We Need A Menthol Ban? Renowned Tobacco Control Leader Explains Racial Consequences, Benefits

The prestigious Champion Award will be presented during the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual Youth Advocates of the Year Awards ceremony set to take place at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

During an exclusive interview with NewsOne, Johnson said he was “honored” to be recognized for his fearless work.

“More importantly, I think it’s important for the NAACP and all of our organizations to really stand up to ensure every individual has a quality life experience,” Johnson said during a conversation on Wednesday. “Secondhand smoke has been a problem. Menthol-flavored tobacco has been an even bigger problem and it’s simply the work of the NAACP. I’m pleased to be a part of it.”


A fierce advocate

Over the past year, Johnson has demonstrated unwavering determination in advocating for the FDA to implement a comprehensive ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

In December, as the Biden Administration hinted at postponing the finalization of the FDA’s menthol rule announced in 2022 — an initiative aimed at banning menthol-flavored cigarettes and various other flavored tobacco products on the market in order to prevent youth initiation — Johnson stepped forward.

He called upon the Administration to prioritize the well-being of people over profit, stressing the critical need to safeguard the health of the African American community. Additionally, he vehemently denounced the tobacco industry’s lobbyists and their dissemination of misinformation aimed at undermining the menthol rule.

“We call on the White House to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes the same way other flavors were banned because that is what is important for the long-term health of our communities. It is a red-herring argument at this ninth hour, to say it would create political risk,” he said at the time.

Biden instead announced yet another delay in plans to move forward with the ban, but the stall isn’t stopping Johnson.

“We will continue to advocate to make sure that African American communities are treated the same as every other community,” he told NewsOne.

Black people and youth have been targeted by big Tobacco

Tobacco products have long been targeted at members of the Black community and American youth, as highlighted by a 2022 study from Stanford Medicine. The study revealed that deceptive marketing tactics, often employing language emphasizing “coolness and freshness,” are used to entice Black smokers and youth into purchasing hazardous tobacco products.

Notably, the study also observed a shift in advertising strategies, with ads now incorporating phrases like “organic” and “natural” on packaging to falsely suggest safety and potential health benefits. However, the reality remains starkly different.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African American individuals typically initiate smoking at a later age than their white counterparts, yet face a higher risk of mortality from smoking-related diseases. The NAACP noted that Black Americans make up 12% of our nation’s population but carry 41% of all menthol-related-smoking deaths across the past four decades. Studies indicate that the prohibition of menthol cigarettes could potentially save up to 654,000 lives over the course of 40 years, with 255,000 of those lives belonging to Black Americans.


Derrick Johnson creates change

Johnson assumed the role of President and CEO of the NAACP in October 2017, following his tenure as vice chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors and state president for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP. A dedicated member and leader within the NAACP, Johnson has played an instrumental role in guiding the civil rights group through a period of revitalization and renewed vision.

Under Johnson’s stewardship, the NAACP has spearheaded multiple notable initiatives, including the 2018 “Log Out” Facebook Campaign, aimed at “pressuring Facebook” following reports of Russian hackers targeting African Americans users. 

Johnson also led the Jamestown to Jamestown Partnership commemorating the 400th anniversary of enslaved Africans arriving in America and played a vital role in the 2020 We Are Done Dying Campaign which shed light on systemic inequities within the American healthcare system and society at large.

Advocating for change can be a daunting task, but Johnson makes it appear effortless.

When asked about the driving force behind his unwavering commitment to fighting for change in America, Johnson explained further.

“For me, it’s recognizing the many individuals who sacrificed for me to stand here today,” he told NewsOne. “I’m speaking on behalf of members from across the country and not as an individual. Those people I’m speaking for rely on a vehicle such as the NAACP to have a real clear voice.”


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The post NAACP President Derrick Johnson Is Being Awarded For His Efforts To Ban Menthol Cigarettes appeared first on NewsOne.

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