African Americans

Smoking among African Americans is a serious problem as this population suffers disproportionately from deadly 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 amount.2

Smoking Rates Among African Americans

  • In 2008, about 5.6 million, or 21.3 percent of non-Hispanic black adults smoked cigarettes compared to 22.0 percent of non-Hispanic whites. African Americans accounted for approximately 12 percent of the 46 million adults who were current smokers in the United States during 2008.3
  • In 2008, 25.5 percent of non-Hispanic black men smoked compared to 23.6 percent of non-Hispanic white men.4 On average, white men tend to consume more cigarettes (about 30–40 percent more) than African American men.5 Despite their lower exposure, however, African American men are 34 percent more likely than white men to develop lung cancer.6 Black women tend to smoke less than white women but the two groups have similar lung cancer rates.7
  • Among African Americans, as with other U.S. populations, the prevalence of smoking declines as education level increases. In 2008, smoking rates were over 3.4 times higher among African American males over age 25 who had less than a high school education (34.5%) compared to those with a college education (10.1%). Smoking rates are also much higher in African American females over age 25 years old who have less than a high school education (23.2%) compared to those with a college education (9.5%).8
  • Between 1997 and 2007, the smoking rate declined 49 percent among African American high school students from 22.7 to 11.6 percent.9 These students were significantly less likely than non-Hispanic white and Hispanic students to report current smoking in 2007. They also have the highest percentage of trying to quit in the past 12 months (58.4%).10
  • In 2006, 5.5 percent of African American middle school students smoked cigarettes.  This rate was slightly lower than that for non-Hispanic white (6.5%) and Hispanic (6.8%) middle school students.11

Other Facts About Smoking Among African Americans

  • Use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionately high among African Americans. Almost 84 percent of African Americans smokers aged 12 years or older reported smoking a mentholated brand of cigarette compared to 24 and 32 percent of their Caucasian and Hispanic counterparts, respectively.12
  • As smoking declines among the white non-Hispanic population, tobacco companies have targeted both African Americans and Hispanics with intensive merchandising, which includes advertising in media oriented to these communities and sponsorship of civic groups and athletic, cultural, and entertainment events.13
  • African American communities have been bombarded with cigarette advertising. Since the signing of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in 1998 through 2005, 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.  Money spent on magazine advertising of mentholated cigarettes, popular with African Americans, increased from 13 percent of total ad expenditures in 1998 to 49 percent in 2005.14
  • The former Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company (now part of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company) ran a campaign for Kool cigarettes aimed at black youths in 2006 that featured hip-hop DJ competitions, themed cigarette packs, and was billed as a "celebration" of hip-hop music and culture.15,16

 

The American Lung Association has more information available on quitting smoking and our programs to help you do so, our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and tobacco use trends on our website at www.lung.org, or through the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

 

Sources


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups — African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. 1998.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2005.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey Raw Data, 2008. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
4. Ibid.
5. Hebert, JR. Invited Commentary: Menthol Cigarettes and Risk of Lung Cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2003; 158(7): 617–620.
6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2006.
7. Ibid.
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2008. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. June 6, 2008; 57(SS-04).
10. Ibid.
11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health. National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). 2006 NYTS Data and Documentation. April 18, 2008. Accessed on April 30, 2008.
12. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The NSDUH Report. Use of Menthol Cigarettes. November 19, 2009. Available at http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/134/134MentholCigarettes.htm. Accessed January 26, 2010.
13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups — African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics: A Report of the Surgeon General. 1998.
14. Connolly, Testimony before the Senate HELP Committee, February 27, 2007.
15. Hafez N & Ling PM. Finding the Kool Mixx: How Brown & Williamson used Music Marketing to Sell Cigarettes. Tobacco Control. October 2006; 15(5):359-66.
16. Office of the New York State Attorney General. Media Center: Landmark Settlement of "Kool Mixx" Tobacco Lawsuits; R.J. Reynolds Agrees to Significant Restrictions on Future Promotions. October 6, 2004.

*Racial and ethnic minority terminology reflects those terms used by the Centers For Disease Control. 

February 2010