Smoking and African Americans Fact Sheet (June 2006)

African Americans suffer disproportionately from many chronic and preventable diseases associated with smoking.1 Compared to white Americans, African Americans are at increased risk for lung cancer even though they smoke about the same amounts or less. 2 Other conditions include asthma, occupational lung disease and acute lung infections.

– In 2005, about 5.1 million, or 21.5 percent of, non-Hispanic black adults smoked cigarettes compared to 21.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites. African Americans accounted for approximately 11% of the 45.1 million adults who were current smokers in the United States during 2005.3

– In 2005, 26.7 percent of non-Hispanic black men smoked compared to 24.0 percent of non-Hispanic white men. On average, White men tend to consume more cigarettes (about 30-40 percent more) than African American men.4 Despite their lower exposure, however, African American men are 37 percent more likely than White men to develop lung cancer.5 Black women tend to smoke less than white women but the rates were similar.6

– Among African Americans, as with other U.S. populations, the prevalence of smoking declines as education level increases. In 2004, smoking rates were over three times higher among African Americans males over age 25 years old who had less than a high school education (36.7%) compared to those with a college education (11.3%). Smoking rates are also higher in African American females over age 25 years old who have less than a high school education (29.2%) compared to those with a college education (6.9%).7

– The rate of cigarette smoking increased 80 percent among black high school students from 1991 to 1997. However, between 1997 and 2005, the smoking rate declined 43 percent from 22.7 to 12.9 percent.8 African American high school students were significantly less likely than whites and Hispanic students to report current smoking. They also have the highest percentage of trying to quit in the past 12 months (61.8%).9

– In 2004, 12.3 percent of African American middle school students smoked any tobacco. Rates were relatively equal to other racial/ethnic groups.10

– As smoking declines among the white non-Hispanic population, tobacco companies have targeted both African Americans and Hispanics with intensive merchandising, which includes billboards, advertising in media oriented to these communities, and sponsorship of civic groups and athletic, cultural, and entertainment events.11

– African American communities have been bombarded with cigarette advertising. Since the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), the average youth in the United States is annually exposed to 559 tobacco ads, every adult female 617 advertisements, and every African American adult 892 ads. Expenditures for magazine advertising of mentholated cigarettes, popular with African Americans, increased from 13 percent of total ad expenditures in 1998 to 49 percent in 2005.12

Recently the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation ran a campaign for Kool cigarettes aimed at black youths that featured hip-hop characters.13