Menthol is bad news. At least when it comes to cigarettes. When the FDA banned flavoring of cigarettes in 2009, menthol miraculously slipped through the cracks. That’s right, apparently the menthol-making process of formulating the compound synthetically or deriving it from peppermint and/or other mint oils doesn’t constitute flavoring.

What’s even more alarming (but not surprising) than big tobacco managing to sidestep flavor-ban legislation are some of the facts around menthol cigarettes. Below are the stats courtesy of the anti-tobacco education foundation Legacy’s newest project called MenthLab – a five-day workshop aimed at exposing the truth about menthol smoking.

  •  27% of the market share for cigarettes is menthol
  •  80% of African-American smokers use menthol
  • 48% of youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes
  • More than 80% of African-American smokers in middle school and high school prefer menthol cigarettes

According to Fast Company, we have Adam and Marty Butler of Butler Bros., an Austin creative firm with a focus on cause marketing, to thank for pitching a line of products and events intended to generate revenue for smoking out menthol and big tobacco.

As Fast Company notes, “Legacy’s MenthLab workshop envisioned ways to reach kids at multiple venues.” From dodgeballs and basketball courts branded with the number “1200” (the number of people who die each day from tobacco-related causes) to collaborating with some of hip hop’s biggest stars, the workshop sparked many powerful ideas for battling the industry that spends $29M each day on marketing cigarettes.

While MenthLab undoubtedly faces a lofty battle ahead, we couldn’t be more excited for their commitment to designing positive change. As the market for just about anything from food to clothing to tobacco continues to become increasingly commoditized, the power of branding will become exponentially more relevant. If we can harness the power of design and branding as an emotional catalyst to curb smoking and the influence of the colossal animal we know as big-tobacco, there’s next to nothing we can’t accomplish.

(Photo via MillionFaces by agency TBWA)