FACT SHEET: African American Adults & TobaccoPrepared in 1999 by: The Center for Social Gerontology, Ann Arbor, MI
The 1998 Surgeon General's Report states that tobacco use is a major cause of disease and death among all minority populations, but African Americans bear the greatest burden of all groups.
Prevalence of tobacco use:
- In 1995, 26.5% of adult African Americans smoked cigarettes (males and females). Thus, of approximately 22.4 million adult African Americans in 1995, over 5.9 million were smokers, or about 12.6% of the 47 adult million smokers in the U.S. African Americans of all ages (adults and youth) in 1995 made up 12.1% of the overall U.S. population.
- Cigarette smoking among adult African American males dropped from 45% in 1978 to 31.4% in 1995; smoking among adult African American females dropped from 31.4% to 22.7%; reflecting the overall smoking decline in America during that period and the slower decline among women than men. Smoking rates among African American men remained higher than white males and higher than other minority groups except Native Americans. Smoking rates among African American women were lower than white women, but higher than other minority groups, except Native Americans.
- The cigarette smoking rate among African Americans aged 65 and over (male and female rates combined) in 1965 was 20.1% and only dropped to 18.7% in 1994, whereas smoking rates among whites aged 65 and over dropped from 17.7% in 1965 to 11.6% in 1994.
- Cigar and pipe smoking among adult African American men in the early 1990's was 3.9% and 2.4% respectively; rates somewhat lower than white males. Use of chewing tobacco or snuff was 3.1%, versus 6.8% among white men. These rates among African American males were higher than other male minorities, except Native Americans. Among other minorities and whites, use of chewing tobacco or snuff was overwhelmingly a male habit; among African Americans, however, more women (1.9%) used snuff than men (0.9%), and 1.5% of women used chewing tobacco versus 2.7% of men. Among African American women, use of chewing tobacco or snuff has been highest among those aged 65 and over.
Health and mortality consequences of tobacco use:
Virtually all cases of lung cancer are attributable to cigarette smoking. Among African American males, the lung cancer death rate is 50% greater than among white males and more than two to three times as great as among other male minorities. It is unclear why male African American rates are so much higher than other male rates, but it may have to do with historical smoking patterns/habits, or genetics, or menthol in cigarettes. Smoking causes cancers of the lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus and bladder, and is a contributing factor for cancers of the pancreas, kidney and cervix. In almost all of these cancers, both the incidence and death rates of African American males are higher than among white and other minority males, and in many cases substantially higher. Lung cancer death rates of African American women and white women are almost the same, and the rates of both are two to three times higher than the rates of other minority women. Smoking-attributable mortality rates among African Americans are about 20% higher than among whites, and the years of potential life lost due to smoking are even higher, probably due to more smoking-related deaths at earlier ages than among whites.
Data in this Fact Sheet has been taken from the following: Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1998; "Cigarette Smoking & Smoking Cessation Among Older Adults: United States, 1965-94" by C.G. Husten et al in Tobacco Control, Autumn, 1997. "Smoking-Attributable Mortality and Years of Potential Life lost -- U.S., 1984," in MMWR, May 23. 1997. Population Projections of the U.S. by Age, Sex, Race, & Hispanic Origin: 1995-2050, published by the U.S. Census Bureau, 1996.