New anti-smoking bill will save African American lives

The new anti-smoking bill marks a monumental achievement in the fight against tobacco companies in the United States. It is geared towards protecting family and children and empowers the FDA to regulate the tobacco companies more stringently.

The bill aims to reduce the consumption of cigarettes by minors by making ads less attractive to this group, as well as banning certain flavorings that are appealing to young people. The Act will also lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and provide aid to people who are trying to quit.

President Obama started smoking as a teenager and has struggled with, and continues to struggle with, smoking. He knows what the dangers of smoking are and lives the very real struggle that some smokers undergo daily while trying to stop.

The repercussions of long term smoking could be deadly and irreversible. Smoking leads to the development of chronic and debilitating diseases such as strokes, heart disease, cancer and lung diseases and is particularly detrimental to African Americans.

Each year approximately 45,000 African Americans die from a preventable smoking-related disease. One third of cardiovascular deaths annually can be attributed to smoking. African Americans accounted for 13 percent of the 45.3million adults who were current smokers in 2006. Although white adult men consume more cigarettes than African American men, African American men are 37 percent more likely to develop lung cancer.

Strikingly, as smoking decreased among Caucasians, tobacco companies have increasingly targeted the African American population, a vulnerable and willing market. Studies have shown that there is a higher density of tobacco billboards in African American communities as documented in Los Angeles, California. Older studies have also shown that major black magazines had 12% more cigarette ads compared with comparable non black magazines.

In fact the Brown and Williamson tobacco corporation ran a campaign for Kool cigarettes aimed at black youth. This featured Hip Hop DJ competitions and was represented a “celebration of hip-hop music and culture”.

Surprisingly but happily, the rate of smoking in African American high school students which had escalated in 1991 to 1997 decreased from 22.7 to 11.6 percent from that time until 2007. The good news, which holds true across all races, is that as education increases, one is less likely to smoke.

Smoking rates are higher in African Americans who had less than a high school education at 34.8% compared with college educated people at 16.7%, yet another reason that we should empower our youth to get an education and go to college.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act – which is estimated to result in an 11% decline in underage smoking overall – will hopefully, disintegrate the determined targeting of African American youth.

As far as smoking cessation, it is harder for blacks to stop smoking once they start. Although, up to 70% want to quit, it is harder for African Americans to stay abstinent for one month or more than it is for white people.

This new bill will provide aid to those who are trying to quit smoking. African Americans tend to prefer the menthol based cigarettes and whether this is higher in nicotine or makes the nicotine more potent has been investigated. The new bill will ensure that there is less nicotine in smoking products and the companies will be charged to make the cigarettes less addictive and less toxic.

There will be clear labels that warn of the dangers of smoking. The American Heart Association, as well as the American Cancer Society are among the many organizations which support this bipartisan bill. It bill will hopefully reduce the approximately $100 billion that is spent on smoking related illnesses annually.

This new legislation will hopefully become law and if it does, in Obama’s words, it will be “a law that will save American lives.” It will certainly save the lives of many African Americans.