African-Americans and Tobacco

Each year, approximately 45,000 African Americans die from smoking-related disease. Smoking related illnesses are the number one cause of death in the African American community, surpassing all other causes of death, including AIDS, homicide, diabetes and accidents.

  • Current Use Rates

  • 20.6% of African American adults are current smokers (national rate of smoking is 19.3%).  Smoking is higher among African American men than women (24.8% vs. 17.1%).
  • One out of 10 pregnant African American women reports smoking during pregnancy.
  • African American school students smoke at lower rates than White and Hispanic students.  Ten percent of African American high school students smoke compared to 20.3 % of white high school students and 18% of Hispanic students.
  • African American middle school students smoke at lower rates that their White and Hispanic peers; 6% of African American students, 7% of Hispanic and 7% of White midle school students smoke.
  • Forty-two percent of low income African Americans smoke; 21% did not graduate from high school compared with 34% who were high school graduates and 36% had some college education.
  • The use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionately high among African Americans. Almost 84% of African American smokers report smoking a mentholated brand of cigarettes compared to 24% and 32% of  Whites and Hispanics.

African Americans and Cessation

70% of African American smokers indicated that they want to quit smoking completely. The prevalence of cessation however,(the percentage of persons who have smoked at lease 100 cigarettes and quit) is higher among Whites (51%) than among African Americans (35%).

Targeting the African-American Community

Tobacco companies target both the African American and Hispanics communities with intensive merchandising: billboards, advertising in media-oriented events and sponsorship of civic groups and athletic, cultural and entertainment events.

Marketing Aimed at African-Americans

African American communities are overly targeted with cigarette advertising. Since the tobacco MSA (Master Settlement Agreement), every African American adult is annually exposed to 892 tobacco ads. Expenditures for magazine advertising of mentholated cigarettes, which is most preferred among African Americans, increased from 13% of total expenditures in 1998 to 49 percent in 2005.

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