By Yasmine Outlaw
Native Americans and White adults are the highest consumers of tobacco products in America. Yet, tobacco advertisements are found 10 times more in the Black community than anywhere else in the nation. In America, 18.3% of Black Adults are tobacco smokers.
This is a form of profiling done by the big tobacco corporation decades ago. According to research done by truth, “In the 1980’s a major tobacco company paid people to go into inner-city neighborhoods and hand out free samples of menthol cigarettes in effort to acquire African Americans as customers.”
Menthol cigarettes are easier to get addicted to and more difficult to quit smoking. In addition to that, the cost of some tobacco products is less expensive in the Black community than anywhere else.
Edgar Mendez, Program Coordinator of Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network, shines a light on how tobacco is affecting Wisconsin. “Data from the MKE Retail Scan project showed that there are 3 times as many retailers located within 500 feet of schools on the north side of Milwaukee versus the suburban areas. Increased exposure to tobacco leads to higher levels of use and initiation among youth. In addition, the north side stores had a much higher rate of menthol price promotions, and more cigarillos on sale for less than a $1,” Mendez says.
This easy addiction has very harsh long term effects. Every single cigarette takes off 11 minuets of your life, meaning a single pack of cigarettes is a loss of almost four hours of one’s life span. The tar and other toxic chemicals cause lung and oral cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Although Black Americans are not the majority of tobacco products consumers, they are the largest group that die from tobacco usage each year.
In the state of Wisconsin, health insurance companies surge a higher premium for tobacco users. A 10% increase is applied to the cost of health insurance for everyone in the household since second hand-smoking does just as much damage to the body. “Second hand smoke contains more than 70 chemicals known to cause cancers and thousands of deaths among nonsmokers each year. Children who breathe secondhand smoke and have asthma can have more severe and frequent asthma attacks,” Mendez says.
As legislators turn a blind eye to the damage Big Tobacco does to the American people, it the people who has to make the change.