Partners Collaborate on Program to Help African-Americans Quit Smoking

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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The American Lung Association is launching a joint effort with the National Urban League and the CVS Health Foundation aimed at reducing the smoking rate among African-Americans.

The collaboration will provide free access to the American Lung Association’s proven smoking cessation program called “Freedom from Smoking” to African-American communities in Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C.

Cigarette smoking is one of the main causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The African-American community has higher smoking rates than other groups, with more than 20 percent of adults reportedly using tobacco.

The initiative aims to address health disparities in this vulnerable population, which faces a disproportionate burden of tobacco use and tobacco-related conditions, by offering free services available in person, online, and by phone to help them quit smoking.

The CVS Health Foundation is funding the program with a $1 million grant, as part of its five-year, $50 million “Be the First” initiative to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.

“We have made tremendous progress against tobacco addiction and the smoking rate is half of what it was in 1964, but not everyone has benefited equally,” Harold P. Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a press release.

“Some groups have been historically underserved with tobacco control efforts and today have higher tobacco use rates as a result. It’s important that we address this disparity with partners like the National Urban League and CVS Health so that we can prevent and reduce tobacco-related illnesses in all parts of our society,” he said.

Tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African-Americans: heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Secondhand smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

“The death rate from smoking-related illnesses is far higher among African-Americans than among the population in general, including lung cancer,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.

“Some African-Americans have an especially hard time quitting because menthol cigarettes — marketed specifically to black communities — are more addictive, and they do not have access to the best resources to stop smoking. Thanks to this partnership with the American Lung Association and support from the CVS Health Foundation, we can address those barriers and offer support that will help more people become smoke-free,” he said.

With the program, participants can learn about how to build a plan to quit; medications and lifestyle changes that can help them quit smoking; how to manage stress; and how to overcome relapse and ultimately become smoke-free.

“We recognize that the use and effects of tobacco use in multicultural communities are significant, and we want to play a leading role in reducing smoking in these communities,” said Eileen Howard Bone, president of the CVS Health Foundation.

“We are proud to help bring together the tobacco control expertise of the American Lung Association with the multicultural reach of the National Urban League to advance smoking cessation efforts in the African-American community and help people on their path to better health by living tobacco-free lives,” she said.

More information about the program can be found here.