The O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is at the forefront of a national campaign to engage faith leaders, churches and their communities in discussions about how to improve outcomes for African Americans who use tobacco. Coordinated by the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, the campaign culminates in an annual event, called No Menthol Sunday, and encourages congregations to take time during their regular religious services on May 17 to discuss the dangers of cigarette and tobacco use.

Menthol cigarettes are easier to start and harder to quit. – No Menthol Sunday: May 17

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement is working to help faith leaders across the state incorporate the campaign’s tobacco-related messaging into their Sunday services on May 17. The office is not only mobilizing its team of Community Health Advisors to invite churches from underserved communities to participate in the event, but it is also providing those who register to participate with free print materials and digital resources to share with their congregations on No Menthol Sunday.

This year’s No menthol Sunday campaign presents a unique challenge, as most churches are unable to hold in-person services. However, organizers from the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement are committed to continuing the campaign virtually by engaging with community members on social media, sharing resources with faith leaders and participants via text message and discussing the dangers of tobacco use on local radio stations.

“The power of the pulpit is great, and we are asking pastors to add an additional message of good health on May 17,” said Claudia Hardy, program director of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement. “Participation in No Menthol Sunday is free, and our office is providing resources in lots of different ways.”

NAATPN officials say that the deadly consequences of using tobacco are magnified among African Americans. Tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African Americans: heart disease, cancer and stroke. Smoking also increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, the fourth leading cause of death among African Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also notes that African American adults have the highest percentage of menthol cigarette use when compared to other racial and ethnic groups. The name of the campaign, “No Menthol Sunday,” refers to the widespread marketing of menthol-flavored cigarettes in African American communities.

“Tobacco causes cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases that kill African Americans at an alarming rate,” Hardy said. “Just a simple message from church leaders on this day could make a huge difference in these communities.”

Learn more about No Menthol Sunday and register to participate at go.uab.edu/nomentholsunday2020