American Lung Association, National Urban League Partner to Help Communities Quit Smoking

With support from CVS Health Foundation, this new partnership will address health disparities in the African-American community

Smoking is an addiction, and some groups have higher smoking rates including the African American community, where over 20 percent of adults report that they currently use tobacco. Today, the American Lung Association and the National Urban League announced a unique partnership to address health disparities in the African-American community by offering free quit smoking 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. 

"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 the U.S., more than 480,000 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.

"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 American 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 American 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 American 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."

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies, or individuals that have been able to end their addiction to tobacco, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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