Health & Wellness

African Americans Are Targeted by Big Tobacco


Every year, cigarettes and tobacco cause approximately half a million deaths in America. Health experts have always warned against cigarettes due to their health risks, but smoking continues to be a popular habit. Interestingly, statistics show that specific populations seem to be more susceptible to its effects. Cigarette-related mortality rates are higher for African Americans by up to 18%. Research shows that these numbers aren’t coincidental, either. Instead, they result from intentional targeting from some of the largest tobacco corporations, alternatively known as Big Tobacco.

How the tobacco industry has been targeting African Americans

When looking at the statistics, African Americans smoke fewer cigarettes than other racial groups. Most of them also pick up the habit later in life compared to other populations. However, African Americans are still more likely to die from smoking-related illnesses than White Americans. By eliminating the factors mentioned above, researchers were able to pinpoint the root of the issue. When public awareness of the dangers of tobacco was on the rise, the government imposed higher cigarette taxes to discourage users. However, unbeknownst to many, tobacco companies simply redirected their business efforts elsewhere.

Notably, Big Tobacco utilized the power of menthol cigarettes. These cigarettes make smoking feel easier and more pleasing, making it a “starter product.” It also lessens the chances of being able to quit due to the appetizing flavoring. Tobacco companies made these products cheaper, easily accessible, and heavily advertised in African American communities. Most of the promotional materials depicted Black models enjoying a cooling menthol cigarette, posted in areas with a high density of African American people. They also tapped into Black-centric magazines to run their ads. These publications became so dependent on tobacco advertising that they overlooked the products’ negative impacts.

Despite 7 out of 10 African Americans claiming they wish to quit, the majority of them are less likely to succeed. Apart from low quit rates, there is a lack of awareness of available tobacco cessation methods to help them stop smoking. If you’re looking for a way to quit cigarettes, here are a few suggestions.

Ways to overcome tobacco dependence.

Use NRTs

Since nicotine dependence makes quitting hard, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products are a popular approach to help wean off this substance. As they’re not as drastic as going cold turkey, they also prevent relapses and withdrawal symptoms. In particular, oral NRTs have the added benefit of providing an enjoyable experience, as seen in the wide choice of nicotine pouches available. The nicotine pouches on Prilla demonstrate how these small white pouches come in different flavors like spearmint, citrus, and berry, making them pleasant on the taste buds much like menthol cigarettes. Additionally, they’re strategically convenient, so it makes it an easier alternative to a cigarette. Simply tuck one under the upper lip and let the nicotine slowly enter the bloodstream. Oral NRTs also come in nicotine gum format, which is ideal for those who want to replace the familiar action of sucking a cigarette with chewing. Nicorette Mint Gum explains that you have to bite down slowly and park the gum inside a cheek for it to be effective.

Contact a Quit line

Getting support is a highly recommended way to stop smoking. Counseling can increase the chances of cessation by up to 40%, which significantly helps, as only 7% of quit attempts succeed yearly. If you’re worried about costly treatment programs, there are free quitline services nationwide. You can dial 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which will connect you with a highly trained professional who can provide free coaching and resources to help you quit. If you’d prefer support over text, you can message QUITNOW at 333888 instead. Similarly, the   has released a specially designed self-help intervention program for African American smokers. Taking into consideration the unique factors that influence smoking in Black communities, this program has been found to help maintain abstinence.

Quitting is challenging, but the health benefits outweigh the struggles purposely set upon the community by Big Tobacco. For more articles dedicated to the health and wellness of African Americans, visit BlackMenInAmerica.

Article written by Rose Henderson exclusively for Black Men In

Image credit: Pexels Source:

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