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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

NAATPN Press Release: African American High School Tobacco Use Is On The Rise

Saturday, August 11, 2012  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Tobacco Use By African American High School Students Is on The Rise

Contact: Delmonte Jefferson, Executive Director
National African American Tobacco Prevention Network

Friday, August 10, 2012

Today’s issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Vol.61/No.31) provides an analysis of the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). For African American youth and young adults, this analysis brings unwelcomed news. Among high school students, Black, non-Hispanic youth were the only race/ethnicity to show an increase in Any Tobacco use (from 14% in 2009 to 18.4% in 2011), Combustible tobacco use (from 13.8% to 17.5%), Cigarette use (from 7.4% to 10.6%) and Cigar use (from 7.1% to 11.7%).
Unfortunately, this analysis is not surprising given the predatory marketing practices of the tobacco industry in African American communities. On Wednesday, August 8, 2012, Dr. Phillip Gardiner, Policy and Regulatory Sciences Nicotine Dependence and Neurosciences Program Officer with the
Tobacco Related Disease Research Program at the University of California, was one of eight expert panelists participating in a live panel discussion and webinar hosted by the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN). During this live panel discussion, Dr. Gardiner showed evidence that the tobacco industry increases advertising and special promotions in focus (African American) communities and that the overall price of tobacco is significantly less expensive in these communities. Dr. Gardiner described predatory marketing practices as a social justice issue. He said that, "The disproportionate targeted marketing of candy-flavored poison to African Americans and other specially oppressed sectors of our society, is out-right discriminatory and genocidal.”
The analysis in the MMWR referencing the increased rate of cigar use by African American high school students also reinforces information shared by Ms. Amber Bullock, Executive Vice President, Program Development with Legacy, during the live panel discussion. In her presentation on New and Emerging Products, Ms. Bullock explained that, "Overall - Cigarette consumption rates have declined over the last decade while cigarillo and little cigar sales rates have increased dramatically (U.S. Dept of Agriculture, 2007 & Maxwell, et al., 2009).” Although less expensive than cigarettes, cigarillos and little cigars are no less addictive and no less deadly. Both cigarillos and little cigars contain menthol and other flavor additives and as noted in the Surgeon General’s report Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General on page 600, "menthol and other flavor additives including fruit and candy flavoring were used as marketing tools to attract young smokers”.
Furthermore, unfortunately, this analysis is not surprising given the fact that the agency responsible for regulating tobacco products in this country (the Food and Drug Administration or FDA) has failed to act in the best interest of African American youth and young adults. When the Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) recommended to the FDA: (USFDA 2011b, p. 225) "Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States” because of the serious public health threat that they present to society, the FDA did not act to ban menthol. Indeed, when the Surgeon General’s report provided irrefutable data regarding how mentholated cigarettes are a "starter” product for youth and reaffirmed that menthol flavoring facilitates youth initiation, the FDA still did not act to ban menthol. Even when the Brazilian government set a precedent by banning menthol from all tobacco products on March 16, 2012 (Resolution RDC No 14 of 15) to protect its youth from tobacco initiation, basing its action on the rationale that "the additives used are what lure many young people to start the bad habit in the first place”, the FDA still did not act to ban menthol.
The same agency with the regulatory responsibility for banning menthol is also responsible for point of sale advertising of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in our communities. In addition, the FDA can and should bring its weight to bear on issues such as standardizing the price of tobacco products so that it’s not easier to get in our communities; increasing the distance of tobacco product outlets from our schools and decreasing the number of tobacco product outlets in our communities. All remedies that could prevent the tobacco industries’ predatory marketing tactics, lower tobacco use by African American high school students and young adults, and save Black lives in the process.
How high does the tobacco use rate by African American high school youth have to be to get noticed by the FDA? How many more African American young adults must become addicted to this deadly habit before action is taken? How many more African American lives must be lost before the FDA starts regulating tobacco products for the public’s health instead of the best interest of the tobacco industry? The FDA must act, and it must act now. Too many lives have been lost already.
(Please visit the NAATPN website at for more information).
Source: NAATPN

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