May is always an exciting time for us at NAATPN. We are knee-deep in planning for our annual No Menthol Sunday where we partner with faith communities and encourage them to educate their congregants about the impact mentholated tobacco has on us as individuals and as a community. Not only is it crunch time for us at work, but I believe it is a kind of crunch time for all of us in our personal lives as well. It’s a time to get girded up and recognize that our work in tobacco prevention must not only reach strangers in communities across the country. Rather, we must also focus our attention on spreading the message of tobacco prevention to our own friends and family, and to our own churches.
Admittedly, friends, family and the church folks who see us on Sunday can be the scariest of populations. They are the ones with whom we share an unspoken rule of never mentioning their secret habits. They are those with whom we eat Sunday dinner and never spoil the moment with uncomfortable conversations about the health of our children.
The other day my father-in-law smiled coyly as he tucked away a box of cigars. “Your worst enemy,” he said referring to my work in tobacco prevention. “No,” I said with a good-natured chuckle. “That’s your worst enemy.”
I tried to remain light-hearted about it in the moment. After all, he was sharing a nice evening Bar-B-Queing and smoking with his other son, and I didn’t want to be the killjoy. Didn’t want to be the one to mention that he should be just as outraged at the tobacco industry as he is at police brutality for the killing of thousands of Black lives. Didn’t want to be the one to mention that because he and his son smoke, his grandchild is among the disproportionate number of Black children exposed to secondhand smoke.
And I certainly didn’t want to be the preachy one reminding him that as Christians, our temples are to be respectfully treated as temples of God. As usual, it just didn’t seem like a good time.
Well, No Menthol Sunday (May 22) is a good time to get the conversation started with friends, in-laws and the church family. Give First Lady the mic and let her talk about her journey in quitting smoking after 10 years. Pass out pamphlets and offer gentle encouragement to the deacon who secretly lights up on his way out of the church parking lot. Invite your family to watch your youth group artfully share facts about how menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking.
This year’s theme, Into the Light, is rooted in Ephesians 5:11-14 that urges us to have nothing to do with what is done in the dark. In the dark we are ashamed to admit to our need for support. What’s more, we are often ashamed to point out someone else’s need for support. In such cases, people delay seeking resources that would help them to end their tobacco-related addictions. Therefore, the scripture inspires us to come into the light where our areas of need are illuminated and healing can occur.
Yes, it’s crunch time. There is really no time to waste when the lives of our families are at stake. We need each other—not accommodating silence—in order to step into the light and move forward in a healthier lifestyle with our loved ones.
Join us on No Menthol Sunday 2016 (May 22) to do just that.