Although smoking has decreased by more than half over the last 50 years, reductions have been uneven by race, income, and geography. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death among Black Americans, who are dying at higher rates than other groups from tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Black People Against Tobacco (Project BAT) is working to change the way that community members view and use tobacco. We’re engaging Black community members in Jackson, Mississippi, to fight tobacco use, combat predatory marketing practices, and address the devastating impact that tobacco (especially menthol and other flavored tobacco products) have on the Black community. We’re doing this by starting conversations, providing resources, and raising awareness.

Project BAT History


Project BAT was launched in 2020 with help from CAI, a nonprofit organization that works at the local, state, national, and international levels to help organizations improve health care and social services for marginalized communities.

A Community Advisory Group (CAG) was formed to lead the project. A group of 14 Black Jackson Community members who are passionate about addressing smoking in their community came together to explore this issue and develop interventions and strategies to raise awareness and change smoking behavior.


The CAG conducted a community needs assessment to investigate why smoking rates are so high in Jackson and explore the community’s strengths, challenges, resources, and concerns around the issue.

CAG members talked with community members—including professors, reporters, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Black Greek organizations, medical providers, recovering smokers, youth, seniors, and low-income individuals—to understand their perspectives on tobacco use and marketing.

Needs assessment findings:

  • Outrage toward the pervasive influences of tobacco advertising targeting the Black community.
  • Smoking is not discussed in the community even though these conversations were identified as much needed.
  • The levels of stress community members experience as a result of living in harsh economic conditions—and the effect that stress has on tobacco use, including smoking as a way to cope with stress.


The Community Action Group is designing and implementing Project BAT activities and interventions to help create a smoke-free Jackson. These include:

  • Developing group chat messages. Tools to start a dialogue with family, friends, and loved ones about smoking norms.
  • Starting conversations about smoking. Developing tools and resources to help community members have non-judgmental, loving, and supportive conversations with their family and friends about smoking.
  • Educating community members and raising awareness. Through media campaigns, free public events, and resources, such as tobacco retailer density maps, and videos.
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