Tobacco related statistics are available and staggering: An estimated 45,000 African Americans will die from smoking each year, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and young adults (ages 18-24) are the fastest growing group of new smokers. In Wisconsin, one-third (33 percent) of African Americans smoke, making them twice as likely to die from a tobacco related illness. With a sense of urgency, the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN) recently addressed tobacco’s burden at three community-focused meetings in Beloit, Racine and Milwaukee.
In Beloit, the WAATPN honored Beloit College’s Black Males Club for co-sponsoring the network’s November 18th Stomp Da Butts Out event. This event was attended by more than 150 and was held in conjunction with Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke-out.
In Racine, the network partnered with the Dr. John Bryant Community Center to facilitate a community dialogue with a group of youth between eight and 17 years old. A middle-aged smoker told his personal experiences with smoking and urged the youth not to start smoking in the first place.
For Milwaukee, representatives from organizations that have partnered with the state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) traveled from around the state to participate in the meeting. The Hispanic, Native American and Poverty Tobacco Prevention Networks participated in the event.
“Disparities exist in many populations such as Hispanics and Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, African Americans and those living in poverty,” said Mava Brooks, Disparities Coordinator for the TPCP. The work that the WAATPN and the other ethnic networks are doing fits into a bigger fight—one that is working to close disparity gaps and reduce tobacco’s burden on all Wisconsinites.
The state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) is producing results in Wisconsin. But certain populations— like African Americans and young adults—are being left behind and remain at great risk for tobacco’s burden.
“Within the African American community, 80 percent of smokers prefer menthol flavored cigarettes. This preference is one reason why African Americans are twice as likely to die from a tobacco-related illness,” said Brooks. “It’s statistics like these that make it imperative for the WAATPN to connect with the community.”
Each event reached out to the community and to youth to increase its network of supporters.
“I was particularly happy to see the partnership groups that came out and brought kids out in an effort of empowerment presentations and networking to help our children and families become smoke free,” said Mario Hall, Program Coordinator and Organizer for the Lindsay Heights Neighborhood Initiative of Walnut Way Conservation Corp.
“I am excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the WAATPN to help educate families about health related issues that impact African American families in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood and abroad,” Hall said.