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'Black Lives / Black Lungs' documentary shows how menthol tobacco ended up in black communities

Growing up in Farmersville, Texas, Lincoln Mondy, who is biracial, noticed something strange about the smokers in his family. His father, and the other black smokers, almost exclusively smoked menthol cigarettes, while his white mother, and her relatives who smoked, used only non-menthol products.

Years later, while interning with Truth Initiative® in college, Mondy learned that his family’s smoking behaviors were no coincidence. Menthol cigarettes, which are easier to smoke and harder to quit, have been strategically marketed to appeal to the African-American community for decades. Today, nearly 90 percent of all African-American smokers use menthol cigarettes, and 47,000 African-Americans die from smoking-related diseases each year.

This realization inspired Mondy to participate in the 2015-16 Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellowship and create “Black lives / Black Lungs,” a documentary that explores the history, marketing tactics and impact of the tobacco industry targeting African-Americans with menthol tobacco products. He said the project, which also features experts and activists across the country, is part of his efforts to “turn my anger into action” and inspire viewers to do the same.

“After the film, I want them to be motivated, I want them to be angry, I want them to go out and do something, I want them to tell their friends,” Mondy said. “That kind of spiral effect I think will start the drumbeat of what needs to happen in this country in framing tobacco control as a social justice issue.”

Mondy’s documentary, “Black Lives / Black Lungs,” will be released on Aug. 7 on