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Blacks smoke fewer cigarettes but are more likely than whites to die from smoking-related diseases

Although African Americans start smoking cigarettes at an older age and usually smoke fewer cigarettes, they are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than whites.

Although the prevalence of cigarette smoking among African American and White adults is similar, African Americans smoke fewer cigarettes per day. On average, African Americans initiate smoking at a later age compared to Whites.

African American children and adults are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than any other racial or ethnic group.

Despite more quit attempts, African Americans are less successful at quitting than White and Hispanic cigarette smokers, possibly because of lower utilization of cessation treatments such as counseling and medication.

Tobacco companies have historically placed larger amounts of advertising in African American publications, exposing African Americans to more cigarette ads than Whites. Areas with large racial/ethnic minority populations tend to have more tobacco retailers located within them, which contributes to greater tobacco advertising exposure.

Historically, the marketing and promotion of menthol cigarettes have been targeted heavily toward African Americans through culturally tailored advertising images and messages. Menthol in cigarettes is thought to make harmful chemicals more easily absorbed in the body, likely because menthol makes it easier to inhale cigarette smoke. Some research shows that menthol cigarettes may be more addictive than non-menthol cigarettes.

See “African Americans and Tobacco Use” on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (November 16, 2020)

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