Annual conference aims to clear the air, emphasize that smokeless isn’t harmless

The Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office (MISRGO) at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) is hosting the 15th Annual “Clearing the Air in Communities of Color” Conference. This event raises awareness about tobacco use in minority communities throughout Arkansas and provides advocates, educators, researchers, public health officials, and community leaders with the opportunity to discuss policy reform aimed at reducing smoke exposure to individuals—especially youth and young adults.

The Conference will be held May 17, from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm at the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Conference Center located on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“Tobacco control in minority communities throughout the state is vital. One of the primary ways we exercise this control is through the creation and application of impactful, progressive policies,” says Dr. Calvin Johnson, Program Director of MISRGO.

This year’s conference features influential leaders focused on tobacco control efforts in communities of color, including emerging technology and trends like heat-not-burn tobacco products (HNB) and tobacco heating systems (IQOS). While these items provide an alternative to Menthol cigarettes, which a staggering 90% of African American Smokers use, they also pose the following concerns:

1) A heat-not-burn tobacco product (HNB) heats tobacco to a lower temperature than when a conventional cigarette is burned. The resulting smoke contains nicotine and other chemicals. There is no reliable evidence that these products are any less harmful than other cigarettes.

2) IQOS could strengthen the Marlboro brand, including the appeal of its other tobacco products, including cigarettes. Research shows that Marlboro tops the list of preferred cigarette brands among teenagers. Philip Morris is planning to market the tobacco cartridges, called HeatSticks, under the Marlboro name.

3) Evidence does not show that smokers will switch to IQOS from cigarettes, raising concerns of dual use. Studies from other countries also show that few smokers opt to use only IQOS instead of cigarettes. These results suggest that smokers may be more likely to use IQOS in addition to cigarettes, and not as a substitute.

“A smoke-free community is a healthier community but let’s not confuse smokeless with being harmless,” said Dr. Johnson. “Communities throughout Arkansas must continue to actively seek ways to control Big Tobacco in its traditional forms and in newly emerging technology.”

For more information about the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office or the Annual Clearing the Air in Communities of Color Conference, visit or call 870-575-8923.


MISRGO at UAPB was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement. The Office is responsible for addressing the devastating effects of tobacco consumption within Arkansas’ minority communities by preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youth, promoting cessation among youth and adults, eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, and identifying and eliminating disparities of tobacco use among different population groups.


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