Even though just about everyone knows smoking is bad for one’s health, many Americans, including 21.3 percent of all adult black Americans, smoke.
According to data from Legacy, a national health policy foundation, in 2000 just 37 percent of all black Americans who ever smoked have managed to quit, the lowest rate among all racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.
Each year, Legacy reported, three quarters of black smokers say they want to quit; 60 percent try but only 3 percent succeed in quitting.
Based on 1995 research, tobacco-related disease accounted for 45,000 African-American deaths per year.
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of heart disease, cancers such as lung, trachea or bronchus and stroke, all diseases that are prevalent among African-Americans, according to Legacy.
About the only good news from Legacy’s survey is that African-American youth are more likely to start smoking later than white youth, with an estimated 40 percent of black Americans who have ever smoked starting between the ages of 18 and 21, compared to middle school and high school for other youths.
In middle school, the survey said, about 5 percent of black youth smoke cigarettes in middle school, compared to 4.3 percent for white kids. Among high school students, 7.4 percent of black students smoke compared to 19 percent of white pupils.
What really harms black smokers, though, is their preference for menthol cigarettes.
Two years ago, BlackAmericaWeb.com reported that the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network reported that menthol cigarettes typically have more tar and nicotine than non-mentholated cigarettes and mask the harshness of tobacco – meaning smokers smoke more, thus inhaling more toxins.
There also was research that suggested menthol cigarettes were harder to quit and that the tobacco industry used menthol to create “starter” cigarettes to appeal to young, first-time smokers.
Nearly 80 percent of African-Americans who smoke use menthol.