Tobacco Use in the African American Community

Although African Americans smoke at lower or similar rates compared with other racial and ethnic groups, they are disproportionately affected by tobacco use in several ways. For example, African Americans have higher death rates from tobacco-related causes and are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

The tobacco industry has targeted African Americans and strategically marketed its products to appeal to the community for decades, including placing more advertising in predominantly black neighborhoods and in publications that are popular with black audiences. The most striking example is menthol cigarettes, which are easier to smoke and harder to quit. Today, nearly 90% of all African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, and more than 39,000 African Americans die from tobacco-related cancers each year. Experts believe that racial differences in smoking habits, socioeconomic factors and the metabolism of tobacco carcinogens may all play a role.

A summary factsheet with additional information and infographics can be found HERE