Jul 12, 2018, 2:00 PM, Posted by Matt Pierce
We’ve come a long way in reducing tobacco use, but we can save millions of lives and advance health equity by doing even more.
Although smoking rates have dropped by more than half over the past 50-plus years, tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
And not everyone has benefited equally from reduced rates in smoking—there are deep disparities in tobacco use and quit rates, depending on where people live, how much money they make, and the color of their skin.
Tobacco products disproportionately harm people with lower incomes and less education; people with mental illness and substance use disorders; people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT); and racial and ethnic minorities.
What’s causing these inequities? Part of it is marketing. Tobacco control efforts have not focused on closing racial, ethnic and socio-economic gaps. In fact, we know that the tobacco industry targets certain populations—women, people who are black or Latino, and members of the LGBT community—with higher levels of marketing, exposing them to more tobacco product ads.
In addition, people in many of these groups are less likely to have health insurance—and, as a result, less likely to have access to smoking cessation products and services.