Sound Off: A Slow Sweet Death

As black women, it’s often a struggle to find places where images of ourselves are reflected at us in the media. Advertisements in magazines or on television seldom illustrate our beauty or intrigue. At least this was the case until menthol cigarette companies, or dare I say "pushers," saw us as a wide-open market.

They labeled African Americans a "deprived population" that was desperately seeking immediate gratification that they were all too happy to fill. Thanks to the predatory cigarette industry, we began to see ourselves everywhere. Images reflected of young, sexy black men and women playing cards, drinking liquor, or singing jazz—all with smoke seeping out of our their mouths and hovering over their heads. The captions read "be authentic," "be bold."

This article was originally published in Essence.