VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — The community is putting in effort to help prevent the growth and use of tobacco in the area throughout the month of May. 

Several organizations are coming together this month to provide programs and events, like food drives, that are working toward raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco use. These organizations are dedicated to improving the current and future health of locals in the area, as well as encouraging farmers to focus more on growing produce rather than tobacco. 

On Sunday, May 21, Vigo County will participate in No Menthol Sunday an annual observance led by the Center for Black Health Equity that is designed to bring together churches and local public health leaders in an effort to improve the current and future health of African Americans and will focus on educating congregants and community members about the roles tobacco and vaping play in health.

Studies have shown that there is increased marketing for tobacco, up to 10 times, in Black neighborhoods compared to other neighborhoods. About 15%, or almost 7,500 people, in Vigo County, are African American. Through contributing money to minority higher education institutions, scholarship programs, civic and community organizations, and more, the tobacco industry has spent billions to integrate itself into African American communities.

In an effort to continue smoking prevention, tobacco cessation, and awareness efforts, local food drives led by local organizations, Tobacco Free Vigo and VOICE, will take place on Wednesday, May 31, to celebrate World No Tobacco Day. The schedule for the food drives is as follows:

  • AmVets Post 222 | 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. | Benefitting Providence Food Pantry 
  • 14th and Chestnut Community Center | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Benefitting 14th and Chestnut Community Food Pantry 
  • Chances and Services for Youth | 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. | Benefitting Terre Haute Catholic Charities

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2023 is “We need food, not tobacco” and is working to bring attention to alternative crop production and marketing efforts for tobacco farmers that encourage sustainable, healthy crops. 

Both No Menthol Sunday and World No Tobacco Day are looking to inform the public of the tobacco industry’s efforts to prevent the growth of other crops in place of tobacco and targeting minorities in their advertising tactics. 

According to Tobacco Free Vigo, the last census recorded that Indiana produced over 1.7 million pounds of tobacco leaf. Worldwide, however, the statistics are staggering:

  • Across the globe, around 3.5 million hectares of land are converted for tobacco growing each year. Growing tobacco also contributes to the deforestation of 200,000 hectares a year. 
  • Tobacco growing is resource intensive and requires heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, which contribute to soil degradation. 
  • Land used for growing tobacco then has a lower capacity for growing other crops, such as food, since tobacco depletes soil fertility. 
  • Compared with other agricultural activities such as corn growing and even livestock grazing, tobacco farming has a far more destructive impact on ecosystems as tobacco farmlands are more prone to desertification.

For those who farm tobacco they are often locked into contracts, and the health risks of farming it are tremendous: 

  • Green tobacco sickness. As many as 1 in 4 tobacco farmers are affected by green tobacco sickness, and nicotine poisoning. The disease is caused by nicotine absorbed through the skin from the handling of tobacco leaves. 
  • Exposure to heavy chemicals and nicotine. Tobacco farmers are exposed daily to tobacco dust and other chemical pesticides. A tobacco farmer who plants, cultivates and harvests tobacco may absorb nicotine equivalent to 50 cigarettes per day. Additionally, tobacco farmers often carry harmful substances home on their bodies, clothes, or shoes, leading to harmful secondary exposures for their families, especially children. 
  • Chronic lung conditions. Tobacco farmers also inhale large amounts of tobacco smoke during the curing process, which increases the risk of chronic lung conditions and other health challenges.

For any individuals or organizations interested in more information about how to participate in No Menthol Sunday, or World No Tobacco Day, contact Shannon Giles at 812-231-8909 or visit Tobacco Free Vigo online.