An UNDO Project
Last Updated: 3/10/2023
An African American/Black man sitting on a chair watching cigarette adsAn African American/Black man sitting on a chair watching cigarette ads

African American/Black

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The story of African American/Black

Tobacco is immensely destructive in African American/Black communities, causing more deaths than AIDS, accidents, and homicide combined.1 Tobacco companies’ manipulative tactics have led to African American/Black communities experiencing the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.2

Big Tobacco systematically targets African American/Black communities by plastering neighborhood stores with deceptive ads and offering discounts on their products.3 Studies have found there are up to 10x more tobacco ads in neighborhoods where people predominantly identify as African American/Black, particularly for menthol cigarettes, which Big Tobacco has specifically pushed in the community for years.4

Tobacco companies are now pushing other flavored tobacco products such as little cigars and cigarillos and are pricing them lower in African American/Black neighborhoods.5 R.J. Reynolds, makers of Camel and Newport, recently sponsored community events and paid for the travel costs of prominent community leaders such as civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton to convince African American/Black communities that banning flavored tobacco, particularly menthol cigarettes, will continue the criminalization of people who are African American/Black. The truth is, flavor ban tobacco policies, similar to the 2016 California Tobacco 21 law, no longer penalize tobacco product purchasers, instead holding tobacco sellers responsible.

Clearly, Big Tobacco is not letting go of this community without a fight.

The proof is in the data

[Data last updated March 2023]
Indicator
African American/Black
General population
Adult tobacco use
1. Adult cigarette use: Adult cigarette smoking prevalence
10%
The estimate is significantly higher than the California general population.
6.7%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
2. Change in adult cigarette use: Rate of change in adult cigarette smoking, 2014 to 2020
-41.9%
The 2020 estimate is significantly lower than the 2014 estimate.
-46.4%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2013-14. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
3. Adult tobacco use: Adult tobacco use prevalence (e.g., cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other vaping products, other tobacco products)
15.9%
The estimate is significantly higher than the California general population.
11.3%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Youth tobacco use
4. Youth cigarette use: Youth cigarette smoking prevalence
1%
1.2%
  • California Student Tobacco Survey, 2019-20. San Diego, CA: Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control, University of California, San Diego.
5. Change in youth cigarette use: Rate of change in youth cigarette smoking, 2016 to 2020
-44.4%
-72.1%
  • California Student Tobacco Survey, 2019-20. San Diego, CA: Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control, University of California, San Diego.
  • California Student Tobacco Survey, 2015-16. San Diego, CA: Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control, University of California, San Diego.
6. Youth tobacco use: Youth tobacco use prevalence (e.g., cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other vaping products, other tobacco products)
10.2%
9.7%
  • California Student Tobacco Survey, 2019-20. San Diego, CA: Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control, University of California, San Diego.
Availability of tobacco & tobacco industry influence
7. Cheapest cigarettes: Average price for the cheapest pack of cigarettes
$7.06
$7.11
  • Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, 2019. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2014-2018. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
8. Flavored little cigar price: Average price for a single flavored little cigar/cigarillo
$0.92
$0.97
  • Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, 2016. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2011-2015. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
9. Tobacco retail licensing: Proportion of population protected by a strong tobacco retail licensing law
71.7%
The estimate is 10.0 percentage points higher than the California general population.
59.5%
  • Policy Evaluation Tracking System, April 2021. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2015-2019. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Decennial Census, 2010. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
10. Tobacco stores: Density of stores selling tobacco per 100,000 residents
89
The estimate is 10.0 stores per 100,000 higher than the California general population.
77
  • California Cigarette and Tobacco Products Retailer Licensees, November 2021. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
  • American Community Survey, 2014-2018. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Decennial Census, 2010. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
11. Flavored tobacco: Proportion of stores that sell flavored non-cigarette tobacco products
80.6%
The estimate is significantly lower than the California general population.
81.8%
  • Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, 2019. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2014-2018. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
12. Menthol cigarettes: Proportion of stores that sell menthol cigarettes
85.6%
88.3%
  • Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, 2019. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2014-2018. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
13. Tobacco advertising: Proportion of stores that keep 90% of their storefront free from any advertising
39.3%
40.1%
  • Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, 2019. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2014-2018. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
Secondhand smoke
14. Adult secondhand tobacco exposure: Proportion of adults exposed to secondhand smoke or vape
38.7%
35.2%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
15. Youth secondhand tobacco exposure: Proportion of youth exposed to secondhand smoke or vape
29.7%
33.1%
  • California Student Tobacco Survey, 2019-20. San Diego, CA: Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control, University of California, San Diego.
16. Smoke-free multi-unit housing: Proportion of population protected by a smoke-free multi-unit housing law
71.5%
66.7%
  • Policy Evaluation Tracking System, April 2021. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program.
  • American Community Survey, 2015-2019. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Decennial Census, 2010. Suitland, MD: U.S. Census Bureau.
17. Smoke-free homes: Proportion of adults with smoke-free homes
89.6%
91.8%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Cessation
18. Quitting: Proportion of smokers who tried quitting in the last 12 months
62.4%
55.6%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
19. Doctor advice to quit: Proportion of smokers whose doctors advised them to quit
63.5%
46.8%
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2017-18. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Kick It California
Percent of Enrollees
Percent of Smokers
20. Kick It California enrollees: Proportion of Kick It California enrollees
14.4%
The estimate is significantly higher than the population’s make-up of California’s adult smokers.
8.3%
of smokers are African American/Black
  • California Smokers’ Helpline Caller Intake Reports, 2020. San Diego, CA: California Smokers’ Helpline, University of California, San Diego.
  • California Health Interview Survey, 2019-20. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
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A Story of Inequity

Tobacco’s impact on health disparities in California

For decades, the tobacco industry has aggressively targeted California’s diverse communities with predatory practices. Internal documents from Big Tobacco outline their strategies – many of which are shocking attempts to peddle deadly products by way of product discounts and manipulative advertising. They even gave away free products to youth in the past. These tactics masquerade as support for communities under the guise of cultural celebration.

Unfortunately, the tactics have worked. Big Tobacco aggressively targeted communities and, as a result, some populations have higher rates of tobacco use, experience greater secondhand smoke exposure at work and at home, and have higher rates of tobacco-related disease than the general population.1

Addressing tobacco-related health inequities is key to California’s efforts to fight tobacco, our state’s number one cause of preventable death and disease.2 Tobacco use, pricing, and its impact across California were analyzed where significant disparities were found across various populations. See how Big Tobacco affects each community in the Nation’s most diverse state.

A Story Of Inequity methodology >