The Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office (MISRGO) at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will host the 15th annual “Clearing the Air in Communities of Color” Conference.


The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Conference Center at UAPB.


“This event raises awareness about tobacco use in minority communities throughout Arkansas and provides advocates, educators, researchers, public health officials, and community leaders with the opportunity to discuss policy reform aimed at reducing smoke exposure to individuals — especially youth and young adults,” according to a news release.


The MISRGO program director is Calvin Johnson.


“Tobacco control in minority communities throughout the state is vital,” Johnson said. “One of the primary ways we exercise this control is through the creation and application of impactful, progressive policies.”


“A smoke-free community is a healthier community but let’s not confuse smokeless with being harmless,” Johnson said. “Communities throughout Arkansas must continue to actively seek ways to control Big Tobacco in its traditional forms and in newly emerging technology.”


The conference will feature leaders focused on tobacco control efforts in communities of color, including emerging technology and trends like heat-not-burn tobacco products (HNB) and tobacco heating systems (IQOS), according to the release.


While these items provide an alternative to menthol cigarettes, which 90 percent of African American smokers use, they also pose other concerns, according to the release.


MISRGO at UAPB was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement.


“The office is responsible for addressing the devastating effects of tobacco consumption within Arkansas’ minority communities by preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youth, promoting cessation among youth and adults, eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, and identifying and eliminating disparities of tobacco use among different population groups,” according to the release.


For details about the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office or the annual Clearing the Air in Communities of Color Conference, visit www.misrgo.org or call 870-575-8923.