African American

African Americans

African Americans have a tragic history of undergoing systemic racism and segregation in the United States. Enduring the impact of consistent discrimination, especially from a young age, is a form of toxic stress. This chronic activation of the stress response system of children by repeated adverse events, like instances of racism, has resulted in African American communities experiencing increased psychological trauma and negative health outcomes. African Americans are 20% more likely than white individuals to report psychological distress, contributing to risk behaviors.1,2 Tobacco is the leading contributor to the three main causes of death among African Americans: heart disease, cancer, and stroke.3 Nationally, African Americans smoke at rates similar to the general population; however, African Americans in Wisconsin smoke at rates nearly twice that of the state and national average.4


African American communities have consistently faced an overabundance of targeted tobacco advertising. These marketing strategies have led to an increase in tobacco use nationally among low-income African Americans.7

Compared to predominantly white, affluent neighborhoods, a Massachusetts study found tobacco advertisements in African American communities are:

2x more likely to be within 1000 feet of schools8
5x more likely to display larger advertisments8

The FDA reported that menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction, and decreased success in quitting smoking. Menthol cigarettes can be considered more harmful than other tobacco products because of their highly addictive nature, potentially leading to poorer health outcomes. In fact, studies have shown menthol smoking rates continue to remain constant and even increase in some populations, while non-menthol smoking rates have declined.9 Historically, menthol products have been successfully targeted towards the African American community, causing a disproportionate impact on this population.10


Menthol Cigarettes: Learn more about the harmful effects of menthol cigarettes

Menthol Template Letter to the Editor

Menthol Among African American Smokers -- Easier to start, harder to quit


  1. Mental Health America (2014)
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (2016)
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2016)
  4. BRFSS (2011-2015 combined dataset)
  5. National Health Interview Survey (2011, 2014)
  6. Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (2011, 2014)
  7. Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy (2016)
  8. "Storefront Cigarette Advertising Differs by Community Demographic Profile" (2011)
  9. Truth Initiative (2016)
  10. Tobacco-Free Kids (2016)
  11. Man by Kelly Turgeon from the Noun Project

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