Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Race & Ethnicity Statistics

Industry Targeting

  • Tobacco companies have a long history of targeting African American communities with cigarette advertising and promotions (particularly menthol), along with making large financial contributions to African American groups and political leaders.1
  • Studies have shown a greater number of tobacco advertisements in African American neighborhoods compared to other areas.

Tobacco Use

  • In 2020, cigarette smoking was highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native adults and lowest among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian adults:2
    • Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native adults: 27.1%
    • Non-Hispanic Adults from other Racial Groups: 19.5%
    • Non-Hispanic White Adults: 13.3%
    • Non-Hispanic Black Adults: 14.4%
    • Hispanic Adults: 8.0%
    • Non-Hispanic Asian Adults: 8.0%
  • American Indian/Alaska Native people have a higher risk of death and disease caused by commercial tobacco use, compared to other racial and ethnic groups; on average, AI/AN people are more likely to smoke cigarettes than other racial/ethnic groups.3


  • In 2019, approximately 85% of non-Hispanic Black or African American adults who smoked used menthol cigarettes.4
  • Despite starting to smoke later and smoking fewer packs per day, African Americans who smoke menthol successfully quit smoking at a lower rate than non-menthol smoking African Americans.
  • Research shows that if menthol cigarettes were banned nationally, 44.5% of African Americans who smoke menthol would try to quit.5
  • Asian Americans as a group have the lowest rate of tobacco use, but Southeast Asians in the U.S. face higher rates than non-Hispanic whites; of those who smoke, more than half report smoking a menthol brand.6

Secondhand Smoke

  • African American nonsmokers generally have higher cotinine levels (an indicator of recent exposure to tobacco smoke) than nonsmokers of other races and ethnicities.
  • Deaths caused by secondhand smoke exposure have a disproportionate impact on African Americans and Hispanic/Latino Americans.
  • Some AI/AN communities are less likely to be covered by rules that reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.

Quitting Tobacco Use

  • In 2015, approximately two thirds of adults who smoke cigarettes were interested in quitting:7
    • White, non-Hispanic: 67.5% interested in quitting; 53.3% made past-year quit attempt; 7.1% had successful cessation
    • Black, non-Hispanic: 72.8% interested in quitting; 63.4% made past-year quit attempt; 4.9% had successful cessation
    • Hispanic: 67.4% interested in quitting; 56.2% made past-year quit attempt; 8.2% had successful cessation
    • Asian, non-Hispanic: 69.6% interested in quitting; 69.4% made past-year quit attempt; 17.3% had successful cessation
    • Multiple race, non-Hispanic: 59.8% interested in quitting; 57.8% made past-year quit attempt

Resource Links:

  • The Center for Black Health & Equity – The leading nationally recognized public health entity for solutions impacting African American Health; engages health care organizations, public health officials, faith leaders, and African American communities in health promotion and diseases prevention work.
  • Keep It Sacred | National Native Network – A National network of Tribes, tribal organizations and health programs working to decrease commercial tobacco use and cancer health disparities among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) across the U.S.; offers technical assistance, culturally relevant resources, and a place to share up-to-date information and lessons learned, as part of a community of tribal and tribal-serving public health programs.
  • APPEAL – Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL) is a national health justice organization working to achieve health equity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities. Offers valuable information and resources for community members and public health professionals who want to advance equity in tobacco control and healthy eating & active living within their communities.
  • Nuestras Voces (Our Voices) Network – The National Alliance for Hispanic Health’s Nuestras Voces (Our Voices) Network Program is an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Networking2Save consortium of national networks implementing population-specific and public health-oriented strategies, to impact the prevalence of commercial tobacco use and tobacco related cancers. The purpose is to expand multi-sector networks and their capacity to effectively address the threats of commercial tobacco use and reduce the impact of tobacco related cancer on the nation’s health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on reducing disparities in underserved Hispanic communities.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2020.
  2. Cornelius ME, Loretan CG, Wang TW, Jamal A, Homa DM. Tobacco Product Use Among Adults — United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:397–405. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7111a1
  3. Odani S, Armour BS, Graffunder CM, Garrett BE, Agaku IT. Prevalence and Disparities in Tobacco Product Use Among American Indians/Alaska Natives — United States, 2010–2015 . Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2017;66(50):1374-8.
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Data Archive. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2019.
  5. Truth Initiative. (2020). Tobacco use in the African American community. Retrieved August 8, 2022, from https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/targeted-communities/tobacco-use-african-american-community
  6. Caraballo and Asman, “Epidemiology of Menthol Cigarette Use in the United States,” Tobacco Induced Diseases 9, Suppl. 1 (2011); S1.
  7. Babb S, Malarcher A, Schauer G, Asman K, Jamal A. Quitting Smoking Among Adults — United States, 2000–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;65:1457–1464. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6552a1