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PRESS CONTACT: Josh Brown, +1 (202) 503-9671,

PRESS ADVISORY: Black Public Health Community Leaders Head to London for the British American Tobacco Annual General Meeting

The group will demand that BAT stops killing Black people around the globe

WASHINGTON, DC - On April 19, British American Tobacco (BAT) will host their Annual General Meeting at the Hilton London Bankside. Black public health leaders from across the United States will be there to demand that BAT stops their predatory marketing of products that kill tens of thousands of Black people each year. British American Tobacco wholly owns Reynolds American International (RAI), the maker of Newport cigarettes. RAI and other tobacco companies have perniciously and racially targeted the Black community since the 1950s. As a result of this targeting, tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths for Black people in America accompanied by much higher rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and death. Each year, more than 72,000 Black Americans are diagnosed with a tobacco-related illness and more than 45,000 die from a tobacco-induced disease.

85% of all Black Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes compared to 29% of White smokers. Menthol cigarettes increase addiction and make it harder to quit. More than 70% of African American smokers want to quit, and more than 60% made a quit attempt in the previous year. However, Black American smokers are much less likely than White smokers to successfully quit smoking.

It is important to note that international tobacco companies work tirelessly to market and sell their products to people of all races and ages – including kids – across the globe, with full knowledge of the harm, death, and destruction they bring. BAT also works tirelessly to undermine public health and tobacco prevention in Africa.

Though the U.K., Canada, Ethiopia, Japan and the European Union have banned the sale of menthol flavored tobacco products, BAT and other tobacco companies persist in doing everything in their power to block public health policies that will protect Black people in the U.S..

Delegation Members will be available for press interviews and media appearances to discuss the harm British American Tobacco and Big Tobacco have caused to Black people around the world and what our leaders and the community can do to fight back and save Black lives.

Please contact Josh Brown at +1 (202) 503-9671 (Google Voice) or for availability and scheduling.

Delegation Members

Carol McGruder

Carol McGruder is a seasoned veteran of California’s tobacco prevention experience. Carol is a senior project director, activist, researcher, and writer. She has worked in tobacco prevention since 1994. She is experienced in the fields of public policy, social marketing, media advocacy, global tobacco control, health education, community capacity/power building, and leadership development. She is a proud co-founding member and Co-Chairperson of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC).

Carol and the AATCLC have received honors and accolades from many organizations including the Public Health Law Center, SRNT, American Legacy Foundation, and the San Francisco and Berkeley Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She served as NAACP Branch President for Berkeley, CA for two terms. She received the prestigious Biddy Mason “unsung shero” award in 2021.

Dr. Valerie Yerger Valerie B. Yerger, ND is Professor in Health Policy at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also a licensed naturopathic doctor and a former Health Disparities Scholar of the National Institutes of Health. For over twenty years, Dr. Yerger’s research and advocacy work have focused on framing the disproportionate burden of tobacco among marginalized communities as a social injustice. Her research of previously secret tobacco documents uncovered the tobacco industry’s relationships with African American leadership groups, the accumulation of nicotine in tissues containing melanin, the predatory marketing of menthol cigarettes in inner-city communities, and tobacco companies’ in-house research on the use of menthol as an additive in cigarettes. Dr. Yerger’s research findings have played a crucial role informing some of today’s most exciting advances in community-directed tobacco control policies, here in the United States as well as in other parts of the World. Dr. Yerger is a founding member of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), which spearheaded the national movement to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. Dr. Yerger brings an innovative focus on the demand side of the tobacco epidemic by highlighting social and political determinants of health as underlying barriers to tobacco prevention and smoking cessation.

Minou Jones, CPS-M, ICRC

Minou Jones is the Founder and CEO of Making it Count Community Development Corporation, a Black Woman led 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide meaningful opportunities that count towards making a difference in the overall equity and equality of its community members.” Mrs. Jones previously served as the CEO of the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan where she secured the organization’s first federal 1.25 million dollar grant. Mrs. Jones has more than 20 years of experience in the field of community development and public health. Her organization, MIC is currently spearheading efforts to reduce tobacco-related disparities in Wayne and Oakland County by organizing stakeholders to ban menthol tobacco products. “Tobacco kills 45,000 African Americans each year.” She also serves as Chair of the Detroit Wayne Oakland Tobacco Coalition and is a board member of Tobacco Free Michigan. Mrs. Jones is passionate about helping people of color build healthier communities. She is an internationally certified prevention specialist and alumni of Wayne State and Davenport Universities.

Twlia Laster

Twlia Laster is incredibly passionate about public health, health equity and environmental justice for all. As Project Director of Saving Our Legacy, African Americans for Smoke Free Safe Places – The SOL Project, she is responsible for grassroots organizing, training, collaboration and providing technical assistance to County, local and Regional agencies on developing relationships that influence public policy. Since 1996, Twlia has directly engaged community residents in education and information sessions, focus groups, cessation classes and training for volunteers, employees, youth and young adults who are interested in campaigns that inform decision makers at the local, state and national level. Ms. Laster is also a founding member of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC). Pleshette Robertson

Pleshette Robertson is a passionate leader with a vision for African Americans to thrive through improved social determinants of health; which includes security, great mental health and well-being. Ms. Robertson developed her passion for tobacco prevention and public policy initiatives in 2006 when she partnered with The African American Tobacco Education Partnership (AATEP) in developing grassroots community outreach and education media campaigns. After learning about the predatory marketing practices of the Tobacco Industry, she began serving as a volunteer for community outreach initiatives, focus groups, and advisory committee participation.

She currently serves as the Community Engagement Coordinator at Saving Our Legacy, African Americans for Smoke Free Safe Places – The SOL Project, she is responsible for organizing collaborative partnerships with community-based organizations, faith-based leadership and residents to further education, advocacy, and policy efforts.

Ms. Robertson remains CEO and founder of and the Chief Editor of THE HUB Magazine. (launched in March 2002) and THE HUB Magazine (published in February 2006) are the only Black Women owned and operated Northern California Black urban media outlets that celebrate the lifestyle of African-Americans in the capital region and throughout California - personally committed to never accepting tobacco nor vape advertisements; or sponsorship money in any form.

The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council

Formed in 2008, the mission of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) is to inform and influence the direction of tobacco control as it affects the lives of African American and African immigrant communities. The AATCLC works at the intersection of social injustice and public health policy. Working with health jurisdictions, elected officials, community-based organizations, tobacco researchers, activists and the media, the AATCLC has played a key role in elevating the once obscure issue of regulating the sale of menthol and flavored tobacco products to one of national concern and action.

Making it Count CDC

Making it Count CDC is committed to increasing health equity for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Since 2020, MIC has worked to educate and empower communities about tobacco-related health disparities in Michigan, where 16,200 people die annually as a result of tobacco-related disease. African Americans are disproportionately impacted. and youth are the tobacco's new target for future tobacco revenues. For 30 years, communities in Michigan have been unable to pass local ordinances to protect the health of residents from tobacco marketing and sales due to pre-emption language in the Michigan Tobacco Act. While the FDA announced plans to move forward with banning menthol, the toll of death and disease continues to grow. More than 45,000 Black Lives are lost to tobacco related disease each year. MIC is working with local, state, and and national partners including the AATLC to put power back in the hands of people who have been left out of protections from the tobacco industry.

Learn more at



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