Racial Disparities Between Smokers and Their Habits

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Ever since the surgeon general’s warning on tobacco in 1964, people have legitimately been worried about smoking and all its lasting effects. Regardless of that, people are still smoking; and despite of the fact that they know it’s bad for them, they don’t seem to care enough about the dangerous side effects.

And the main reasons for this are the marketing campaigns held by the major tobacco companies. Aside from even marketing cigarettes towards kids at some point, some products are simply targeted towards certain market groups in particular. And these targeted groups are even more divided, as some populations are more affected than others.

For example, a team of researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently showed some racial disparities between smokers and their habits. The results were particularly interesting, as the differences between how whites and blacks use and are affected by tobacco are quite significant.

According to Phillip Gardiner of the University of California’s Tobacco Related Disease Research Program,

The predatory marketing of menthol and other candy-flavored tobacco products to African-Americans over the past 50 years is a tragedy. 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.

Now that we know on what the CDC blames the continuation of the nasty habit despite clear warnings and evidence to the tobacco’s ill effects, let’s see how exactly these disparities are affecting the United States population. The team only looked at the differences between whites and blacks, so that’s on what we’re going to focus.

First of all, the number of African-American high school seniors that are smokers hasn’t really changed since 1992. In fact the difference between 2014 and 1992 is of .3 percent, actually going up from 8.7 percent to 9 percent. The fact that the number has increased is blamed on aggressive marketing campaigns by tobacco companies.

Next let’s talk differences between the habits of blacks and whites. Black smokers were reported to be less likely to kick the habit as they get older. Starting smoking as an adult is also more certain to lead to less chances of quitting than starting smoking at a younger age.

Even though African-American young adults are more likely to pick up smoking, they have generally lower smoking rates than whites. This was explained as the result of far fewer black teenagers smoking than white teenagers, as they have a harder time getting used to it.

Black teenagers are also far less likely than their white counterparts to start smoking because of external factors such as increased prices and higher than average parental opposition. One last finding would be that death rates are the same for black smokers regardless of the age at which they started smoking.

Even though overall the study might not prove to be of that much use, it certainly offers a view into how African-Americans are affected by smoking marketing campaigns and by its side effects in general. Still, with enough effort, the CDC might actually be able to make a difference and lower the smoking rates for good.

Image source: Wikimedia

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