Tobacco is Not an Equal Opportunity Killer

Tobacco use among African Americans is higher than for the general population.

Many factors contribute to that usage. One factor is the continuing attempt by the tobacco industry to target the African American community by maintaining a positive image and garnishing public support by supporting cultural events and making contributions to minority higher education institutions, elected officers, civic and community organizations and scholarship programs. The tobacco industry invests millions of dollars in advertising targeting the African American community. One study found that three African American publications – Ebony, Jet and Essence- receive proportionately higher profits from cigarette advertisements than did other magazines. Further adding fuel to the fire, the United States Surgeon General reported that sixty-six percent of cigarette advertisements in African American magazines were for menthol cigarettes.

The results of tobacco use among African Americans are devastating. Each year, more African Americans die from diseases caused by smoking than from murders, AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, and car crashes combined. The According to the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, 47,000 African Americans die each year from a smoking- related disease. An estimated 1.6 million African Americans who are now under the age of eighteen will become regular smokers and of those smokers, 500,000 will eventually die of a smoking-related disease.

A breakdown of the statistics from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reveals that:

  • 1) Smoking is responsible for 87% of lung cancer. African American men are at least 50% more likely to develop lung cancer than white men and have a higher mortality rate of lung cancer than do white men.
  • 2) Stroke is associated with cerebral-vascular disease and is a major cause of death in the United States. Smoking significantly elevates the risk of stroke. Cerebra-vascular disease is twice as high among African American men and women as their white counterparts. However, the good news is that of the current African American smokers, more than 70% indicated that they want to quit smoking completely. Project Success Coalition/ Harambee African American Tobacco Prevention and Control Network (TPCP) have actively worked to help these individuals achieve their goal.