• After decades of direct marketing, African Americans are the primary consumer of menthol cigarettes, a product that’s minty and smooth flavor profile makes it difficult to quit and easy to get hooked.
  • In April, the Food and Drug Administration moved to ban the product now that Black smokers make up 85% of the market, but some worry that the proposed move will create more problems.
  • Between 1980 and 2018, menthol cigarettes were responsible for 157,000 premature deaths and 1.5 million life-years lost among Black people, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

After decades of Big Tobacco advertisements splattered across billboards, tucked inside buses and hung outside corner stores in Black and Latino neighborhoods, Henry McNeil “Mandrake” Brown had seen enough.

Using the alias “Mandrake,” Brown started painting over cigarette and alcohol advertisements in his Chicago community in the 1980s and 1990s, according to historians and media archives. He called the advertisements a multipronged practice “to sustain and expand sales to minorities, to women and the poor.”