“I can’t breathe.” Those were George Floyd’s final words before he was murdered by police in Minneapolis — just outside a store known for being the "best place to buy menthol cigarettes."
Today’s rise in Black deaths, cries of “I can’t breathe,” and the menthol cigarette can all be linked to a long history of race and exploitation. This is revealed in a new book by historian Keith Wailoo: “Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette,” which pulls back the curtain on the hidden persuaders who shaped menthol buying habits and racial markets across America.
Wailoo is the Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs. He has produced award-winning research and teaches on a range of topics, including drugs and drug policy; race, science, and health; and health policy and medical affairs in the U.S.
"Pushing Cool" has been featured by Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, Science, the Greenwall Foundation, and others.
Endnotes is a podcast series taking listeners behind the cover and through the pages of books and publications on politics, policy, and more — all written by faculty at Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). The show is hosted, produced, and edited by B. Rose Huber, communications manager and senior writer at SPIA. Check out the show archives.