May 13, 2021: Carol McGruder and Dr. Valerie Yerger


Carol McGruder

Carol McGruder

Carol McGruder is a seasoned veteran of California’s tobacco control experience, and a founding member and Co-Chairperson of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC).  Created to inform the direction of tobacco control policy, practices, and priorities, the AATCLC works at the intersection of public health policy and social injustice.  They have fought resolutely against the decades of racialized tobacco industry targeting of the Black community and the resulting 45,000 Black lives lost each year from tobacco related diseases.


The AATCLC has been at the forefront of the national movement to restrict the sale of mentholated tobacco products, assisting municipalities across the country (Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Oakland, Berkeley, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland…) in passing ordinances to get these deadly products out of their communities. They played a vital role in San Francisco’s historical passage of the first citywide ordinance prohibiting the sale of menthol and all flavored tobacco products and more notably the resounding defeat of the $12 million dollar RJ Reynolds referendum to repeal the ordinance.  They now engage with other advocates to fight back the tobacco industry referendum on Senate Bill 793, California’s statewide bill that would have gone into effect January 1, 2021.


In June 2020, the AATCLC and the Action on Smoking and Health filed an administrative lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration for their failure to take mentholated tobacco products off the market.  Since the initial filing the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association have joined the lawsuit as co-plaintiffs.


Carol and the AATCLC have received honors and accolades from many organizations including the Public Health Law Center, SRNT, American Legacy Foundation, and the San Francisco and Berkeley Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  She served as NAACP Branch President for Berkeley, CA for two terms

Valerie Yerger

Dr. Valerie Yerger

Dr. Valerie Yerger is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also a licensed naturopathic doctor and a former Health Disparities Scholar of the National Institutes of Health. During the past 20 years, Dr. Yerger’s work has focused on framing the disproportionate burden of tobacco among disadvantaged groups as a social injustice and informing public health policies to effectively reach and engage these communities. Her research of previously secret tobacco documents uncovered the tobacco industry’s efforts to influence the use of flavored menthol cigarettes, the disproportionate marketing of menthol cigarettes in inner-city communities, and the accumulation of nicotine in tissues containing melanin. In the past, she provided expert testimony to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee on the sensory qualities of menthol cigarettes. Additionally, as a founding member of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council Dr. Yerger has supported a number of local, state, and federal efforts to restrict the sales of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products by educating local policymakers and engaging with community advocates to magnify their voices at community forums and town hall meetings.