Watching throat cancer snuff the life out of my grandfather should've put me off cigarettes forever. It did for the most part, but I would be remiss to ignore the curiosity that I had for cigarettes in my late teens and early 20s. What was so alluring about these tobacco sticks that kept my grandfather coming back for more? Besides habit and nicotine, obviously.
After I started smoking weed and realized that it was harmless—despite the torrent of propaganda that streamed into my skull as a child—I began to wonder if cigarettes were similar. Were they inherently dangerous, or was smoking to excess, like my grandfather did, the problem? When I tried my first cigarette, I instinctively went for the menthol variant. I'm not sure why; it just seemed like a good choice.
Even though my first pack of cigarettes was my last, the experience stuck with me. Why did I willingly play into a cultural stereotype? Then I flashed back to my days of hanging out at the barbershop with my dad. I remembered all of the ads for Kools and Newports tucked between the pages of Vibe and Jet magazine. Once those hazy memories returned to the surface, I realized that I was the victim of an insidious campaign.
Newsy's YouTube channel talks about how menthol became the brand of choice for Black Americans in the video above.