COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Former Columbus mayor Michael Coleman is stepping forward to discuss his new campaign to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products within the city.

“At the age of 17 years old, I got addicted to nicotine and I started smoking menthol cigarettes at that young age,” said Coleman.

After starting to smoke as a teenager, Coleman smoked through college, as a lawyer, as a Columbus city councilman, and when he began his first term as the mayor of Columbus 22 years ago.

In 2001, things changed drastically for Coleman. “I got deathly ill. I had an infection in my throat. I was taken through the side door of an emergency room at Grant Hospital.. didn’t want anyone to know about it. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk hardly,” said Coleman.

Now more than 20 years later, the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history is working with a coalition to end tobacco targeting with the goal to have legislation at the Columbus city council that ends selling menthol and other flavored tobacco products.

The former mayor points to the “Tobacco Free Kids Report”, which says around 45,000 African Americans die from smoking-related issues and if the current rate continues, 1.6 million Black people in America are estimated to become regular smokers before turning 18.

Another statistic in the report is the estimation of 500,000 of those people dying from a tobacco-related disease. The “Stopping Menthol, Saving Lives” campaign points to tobacco companies targeting Black communities for marketing with 85 percent of Black smokers using Menthol cigarettes.

Last week, NBC4 reported that e-cigarette company Juul Labs will pay $438.5 million in a settlement with Ohio attorney general Dave Yost and 32 other state attorneys general.

Alongside the money, Juul also agreed to stop all marketing to young people, and won’t depict anyone under 35 in any future marketing efforts. It also won’t use any cartoons in advertisements, pay for product placement, offer free samples or sell brand-name merchandise.

“It’s about time,” said Coleman, “I’m glad that in Ohio and other states, they settled this case. It’s one step though and it’s just one manufacturer, one producer. There’s others out there.”

Coleman says the coalition is working on a map to show how current retailers target lower income communities as well as Black communities.

Columbus city council said they will intend to hold public hearings on the issue and determine the next steps.