To publicly recognize No Menthol Sunday (May 19), the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 16.

The event will be held at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in the STEM Building. The event is in conjunction with the annual Clearing the Air in Communities of Color Conference, according to a news release.

The featured speaker will be Delmonte Jefferson, from Durham, N.C., the executive director of National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) Inc. and the founder of No Menthol Sunday.

Participants will also include Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, youth participants, local ministers and faith-leaders from across the state, according to the release.

“No Menthol Sunday annually educates churchgoers about traditional tobacco use among African Americans,” according to the release. “This year, the interfaith observance day will pivot to call attention to vaping, e-cigarettes, and menthol-flavored e-juices.”

According to the recent National Youth Tobacco Survey, progress made in reducing youth smoking rates has been undermined by the rise in certain products and e-cigarette use.

“Although use of e-cigarettes by minority youth is significantly lower than White youth, African American health advocates have taken notice of efforts to market to them,” according to the release.

“On May 19, numerous churches and other faith-based institutions will spotlight No Menthol Sunday during regular worship services. The day serves to remind followers that unhealthy habits may not be in line with their belief systems. Smoking kills 47,000 African Americans annually. That’s more than homicides, suicides, AIDS, and car accidents combined,” according to the release.

Jefferson said this is an important time to discuss tough issues that are often left unspoken about — especially in the Black Christian church.

“During this annual No Menthol Sunday, we are encouraging one another to bring to light serious concerns about our health and the impact mentholated tobacco products have on African American communities.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 90 percent of African Americans adults, who smoke choose a menthol product. Studies also show that while African Americans try more often than whites to stop smoking, they are less successful, according to the release.

“Some say this discrepancy is partly due to the use of menthol which makes tobacco products harder to quit,” said Katherine Donald, executive director of Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas. “In addition, menthol flavor masks the harshness of smoking, making it easier for kids to smoke. Studies show most kids who start smoking try menthols first. Menthol is a gateway to a potential lifetime of addiction.”

Individuals can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free resources about quitting and coaching, or call Be Well Arkansas at (833) 283-WELL.