As black community carries greatest burden from tobacco-related diseases, Spokane Ministerial Fellowship accepts Challenge on behalf of respective parishioners

SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane is entering the second week of its first-ever Stop Smoking Challenge—residents who smoke are encouraged to make a quit attempt by Nov. 16, 2017, the date for this year’s Great American Smokeout. Spokane Regional Health District continues to join forces with local community leaders to help spread the word.

This week, Pastor Walter Kendricks of The Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, and president of Spokane Ministerial Fellowship, a local interdenominational forum that, among other goals, works to build racial unity in Spokane, extended the Challenge to the Fellowship and its respective congregations. Leaders representing the Fellowship and its 15 churches have accepted. 

Says Pastor Kendricks, “Approximately 18 percent of adults in Spokane County smoke. Of those, 24 percent are black, while only 15 percent are white. These numbers reflect how the tobacco industry unfairly markets to, and unjustly influences, our black brothers and sisters. Subsequently, tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among blacks, which are heart disease, cancer and stroke. It is time for us to take a stand to the tobacco industry and rise above their influence in spreading addiction in our communities.” 

In accepting the challenge, Fellowship ministers will speak about the Challenge during services with their parishioners, encouraging those who smoke to make a commitment to quit for one day, one week, or quit for good, leading up to The Great American Smokeout. They will offer local resources for quitting, including this Resources Sheet, as well as promote several local quit events occurring on Nov. 16 in honor of the Great American Smokeout. CHAS Health confirmed this week that it will host an event at each of its eleven sites and offer free quit kits and other tobacco cessation resources.

Another important event related to this effort is a free screening and discussion on Nov. 6, 2017 of Black Lives / Black Lungs, a nationally acclaimed short film that frames tobacco control as a social justice issue and poses critical questions about activism, public health and the worth of a black body in the United States. The filming and discussion is being hosted by The Alliance for Media Arts and Culture and Black Lens News, a Spokane-based independent community publication that is focused on the African American community. 

The event will be held at Morning Star Baptist Church, 3909 W. Rowan Ave., at 6:00 p.m., with discussion facilitated by the film’s creator, Lincoln Mondy, and Black Lens News editor, Sandy Williams. 

“Nine in 10 African American smokers use menthol cigarettes. That’s no coincidence,” says Williams. “As a community, it is important that we all understand the ways in which the tobacco industry targets the black community and that is what this film is about. And all of us have a role in questioning these social norms—that are anything but ‘normal’—that are unjustly created by the tobacco industry.”

Discussion at the event will explore solutions to addressing and eliminating health disparities specific to tobacco and provide participants an opportunity to learn about programs, services, and resources available to help quit tobacco for good.

In other Challenge news this week, the quit date for Spokane City Council President, Ben Stuckart, who was one of the first leaders to accept the Stop Smoking Challenge, will occur Oct. 12. Stuckart is quitting for good using nicotine patches and counseling provided by his insurer. He is utilizing several free resources also including calling the Washington State Department of Health’s Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help getting supplemental nicotine replacement gum, and the state’s SmartQuit app for additional support.

Says Stuckart, “The outpouring of support I’m getting from the legion of former smokers in Spokane is really inspiring. They are offering all kinds of tips and tricks on my Facebook page. Their support lets me know that people can, and do, quit.” 

The health district’s Stop Smoking Challenge is being done as part of Done My Way, an evocative, culturally appropriate local campaign it launched last spring in partnership with CHAS Health. The campaign features compelling local stories told by real former smokers, highlighting a variety of quit methods, including where to get free gum and patch for those without insurance, and providing a glimpse at better lives without cigarettes.

Other leaders who have accepted the Challenge, either on behalf of themselves or their communities, will be announced in coming weeks. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, today there are more former smokers than current smokers. Quitting is different for everyone, and sometimes it takes 7-10 quit attempts before a person quits for good.

The health district will continue to update media and the community on the Stop Smoking Challenge, leading up to the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 16. More information is available on the Spokane Regional Health District website at For more information on Done My Way, including campaign resources and links to testimonial videos, visit Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.