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Lung Association, Urban League Join Forces to Help African Americans Quit Smoking in Chicago

(May 16, 2018) -

For more information please contact:

James Martinez
[email protected]
(312) 445-2501

More than 26 percent of African American adults in Chicago report that they currently use tobacco. That’s over the city’s average of 18 percent.

That’s why the American Lung Association and the National Urban League announced a partnership to address health disparities in the African American community by offering free smoking cessation services. Funded through a $1 million grant from the CVS Health Foundation, this partnership will serve those who face a disproportionate burden of tobacco use and tobacco-related illness by giving access to the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program, a proven-effective smoking cessation program, in several cities across the country, including Chicago.

“We have made tremendous progress against tobacco addiction and the smoking rate is half of what it was in 1964, but not everyone has benefited equally,” said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer. “Some groups have been historically underserved with tobacco control efforts and today have higher tobacco use rates as a result. It’s important that we address this disparity with partners like the National Urban League and CVS Health so that we can prevent and reduce tobacco-related illnesses in all parts of our society.”

Every year in Illinois, more than 18,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Smoking can cause or worsen numerous diseases and conditions, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and more. In fact, tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African Americans—heart disease, cancer and stroke—and causes 45,000 African American deaths every year. Additionally, nearly 90 percent of African Americans over the age of 12 who smoke use menthol cigarettes.

“The death rate from smoking-related illnesses is far higher among African Americans than among the population in general, including lung cancer,” said National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial. “Some African Americans have an especially hard time quitting because menthol cigarettes – marketed specifically to black communities – are more addictive, and they do not have access to the best resources to stop smoking. Thanks to this partnership with the American Lung Association and support from the CVS Health Foundation, we can address those barriers and offer support that will help more people become smokefree.”

The Lung Association will work with the National Urban League to promote and provide their proven-effective smoking cessation program, Freedom From Smoking®, to African American communities in Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. Freedom From Smoking has helped more than one million smokers quit and is offered in person, online and by phone. Participants will learn about building a quit plan, medications that can aid quitting smoking, lifestyle changes that support quitting smoking, how to manage stress and how to overcome relapse and become smokefree for good.  Individuals in those communities that are interested in receiving support can visit or call 1-800-LUNGUSA for more information.

Support for the partnership between the Lung Association and National Urban League is being provided through Be The First, CVS Health’s five-year $50 million initiative to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation and extend the company’s larger commitment to helping people lead tobacco-free lives. The Lung Association and the National Urban League are among a roster of national organizations who are supporting CVS Health’s campaign to accelerate declines in rates of smoking and other tobacco use among teens and young adults.

“We recognize that the use and effects of tobacco use in multicultural communities are significant, and we want to play a leading role in reducing smoking in these communities,” said CVS Health Foundation President Eileen Howard Boone. “We are proud to help bring together the tobacco control expertise of the American Lung Association with the multicultural reach of the National Urban League to advance smoking cessation efforts in the African American community and help people on their path to better health by living tobacco-free lives.”

About the American Lung Association in Greater Chicago
The American Lung Association in Greater Chicago is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

About the Chicago Urban League
Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League is a civil rights organization that empowers and inspires individuals to reach and exceed their economic potential.  The Chicago Urban League supports and advocates for economic, educational and social progress for African-Americans through our agenda focused exclusively on economic empowerment as the key driver for social change. For more information, visit

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