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Stop the Influence: Reject Big Tobacco and Vape Money FAQ’s

What is Stop the Influence: Reject Big Tobacco and Vape Money?

Stop the Influence: Reject Big Tobacco and Vape Money is a group of youth-serving, environmental, social and racial justice, and public health organizations; college and university leaders; faith groups; and cultural institutions who have pledged to reject funding from or any form of partnership with the tobacco and vaping industry and expose donations for what they are: another industry public relations tactic. Stop the Influence is organized by a partnership between the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), Black Women’s Health Imperative, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Truth Initiative.

How can my organization get involved?

  • Sign the pledge: Commit to reject funding and partnership from tobacco and vaping companies and sign the Stop the Influence: Reject Big Tobacco and Vape Money pledge.
  • Raise Awareness: Expose donations as another industry tactic -- a PR strategy -- that benefits an industry whose product kills and encourage others to sign the pledge.

How does the tobacco industry use philanthropy as a PR tactic?

Tobacco and vaping companies use strategic contributions and alliances with organizations and public leaders to help protect business interests, ward off stricter regulation and improve its image among existing and prospective customers. These tactics continue today and are intensifying as the tobacco industry rolls out and aggressively markets flashy new electronic and flavored products to grow its market while trying to rebrand its image with large-scale public relations investments disguised as public health, community, and environmental initiatives.

Why now?

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Every year, approximately 540,000 more of our family, friends, and neighbors die prematurely from tobacco-related cancers, heart disease, lung disease, and stroke.[ii] Unless smoking rates decline, 5.6 million kids under 18 today will ultimately die from smoking.[iii] The youth vaping epidemic, which continues with about one in five high school students using e-cigarettes in 2020, threatens to exacerbate the problem. A Truth Initiative study shows that young people who had ever used e-cigarettes had seven times higher odds of becoming smokers one year later compared with those who had never vaped.

Why is tobacco a social justice issue?

Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. It disproportionately affects many populations — including Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities, people in low-income communities, LGBTQ individuals, women, youth, members of the military and those with mental health conditions — who have a long and documented history of being targeted by the tobacco industry with predatory marketing.

How does the tobacco industry use racist tactics?

The tobacco industry strategically and aggressively targeted the Black community for decades, especially with menthol cigarettes. These tactics include placing more advertising in predominantly Black neighborhoods and in publications that are popular with Black audiences, as well as appropriating culture in marketing, including sponsoring events such as jazz and hip-hop festivals. Most discriminatory is the fact that menthol cigarettes are cheaper in the black community compared to other communities (Henriksen et al., 2011; Seidenberg et al.,2010)

These tactics have devastating consequences. African Americans have higher death rates from tobacco-related causes compared to other racial and ethnic groups – with more than 39,000 dying from tobacco-related cancers each year.[vi] The health consequences are especially severe now as COVID-19, which is also disproportionately affecting Black Americans,[vii] can carry greater risk of severe illness for tobacco users.[viii]

How is tobacco use an environmental issue?

Tobacco use is not only a health issue, it is also an environmental issue. An estimated 766,571 metric tons of cigarette butts make their way into the environment every year and  between 340 and 680 kilograms of waste tobacco products litters the world each year. They are the most littered item in our nation.[x] The waste from cigarettes can leach toxic chemicals into the environment, leading to land, water and air pollution.[xi] The rise of single-use and disposable e-cigarettes has compounded the environmental impact of tobacco products. E-cigarette cartridges, including JUUL pods, are single-use products that contain plastic, electronic and chemical waste and many of them also end up as litter.[xii] Inexpensive, flavored disposable e-cigarettes such as Puff Bar recently soared in popularity, further contributing to e-cigarette waste.[xiii]

What are young people doing about this issue?

In November of 2020, youth activists determined that tobacco and vaping is a social justice issue and they want to take meaningful action. Youth are celebrating organizations who sign the pledge and are urging other organizations to do the same. They can be a part of this issue by signing the petition and sharing the facts. They can also sign up to receive information on how to get local organizations who they love to sign the pledge. They can find out more at


[i] HHS, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014,

[ii] HHS, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014,

[iii] HHS, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014,

[iv] U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Cigarette Report for 2018, 2019, [data for top 5 manufacturers only]; FTC, Smokeless Tobacco Report for 2018, 2019, [Data for top 5 manufacturers only].

[v] Center for Responsive Politics based on data released by the FEC on October 23, 2020.

[vi] CDC, “Vital Signs: Disparities in Tobacco-Related Cancer Incidence and Mortality—United States, 2004-2013,” Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 65(44):1212-1218,

[vii] CDC, COVIDView, January 14, 2021, accessed January 19, 2021 at

[viii] CDC, People with Certain Medical Conditions: Smoking, Updated December 29, 2020, accessed January 19, 2021 at

[ix] Hill, SE, & Friel, S, “‘As Long as It Comes off as a Cigarette Ad, Not a Civil Rights Message’: Gender, Inequality and the Commercial Determinants of Health,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17:7902, doi:10.3390/ijerph17217902, 2020,

[x] Keep America Beautiful, National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study, 2009, Report_9-18-09.pdf?docID=4561.

[xi] Moriwaki, H., et al. (2009). “Waste on the roadside, ‘poi-sute’ waste: its distribution and elution potential of pollutants into environment.” Waste Manag 29(3): 1192-1197. Micevska T, Warne MS, Pablo F, Patra R. Variation in, and causes of, toxicity of cigarette butts to a cladoceran and microtox. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2006;50(2):205-212. Register K. Cigarette Butts as Litter-Toxic as Well as Ugly. Underwater Naturalist, Bulletin of the American Littoral Society. 2000;5(2). Slaughter E, Gersberg R, Watanabe K, Rudolph J, Novotny TE. Toxicity of Cigarette Butts, and their Chemical Components, to Marine and Freshwater Fish. Tob Control. 2011;20:i23-i27.