Little progress has been made to reduce smoking among young black Americans over the past two decades, likely due to aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry, researchers report.
Before 1982, smoking rates were falling among black high school seniors, but progress has since stalled. The rate was 8.7 percent in 1982 and 9 percent in 2014, according to a supplement to the April issue of the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
“That the decline has stalled in the last 22 years is, to me, very sad news. I think it’s about the industry working really hard to keep this market,” supplement co-editor Gary Giovino said in a news release from the University at Buffalo. He is chairman of the department of community health and health behavior at the university.
Other reported findings show that black adult smokers are less likely than whites to quit as they age. Blacks who start smoking in their 20s are less likely to quit than those who start as teens, and blacks overall are less likely to quit than whites, according to the study.
Blacks are less likely than whites to start smoking as teens due to parental disapproval and cost, the study found, but more likely to begin using tobacco as young adults.
Among blacks, smoking-related death rates are the same for those who began smoking when they were younger and those who started later. Among whites, smoking-related deaths are higher for those who started smoking earlier.
The findings suggest more should be done to prevent blacks from starting to smoke as they get older, according to supplement co-editor Phillip Gardiner, of the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program of the University of California president’s office.
“Even though African-Americans start smoking later in life, they still die disproportionately from tobacco-related diseases compared to their white counterparts,” he said in the news release.
“This information has been known for some time, and calls upon all of us to redouble our efforts to allocate greater resources for prevention and cessation in the African-American community,” Gardiner added.
In a commentary in the supplement, Giovino and Gardiner say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should ban menthol cigarettes, which are heavily marketed in black neighborhoods.
“The predatory marketing of menthol and other candy flavored tobacco products to African-Americans over the past 50 years is a tragedy,” Gardiner said. “More than 80 percent of black smokers use these products. A major step in fighting smoking health disparities would be for the FDA to ban the use of menthol in tobacco products.”
The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.