April 16, 2009 - There has been a decrease in cigarette smoking in California since the passing of California's Tobacco Control Program in 1988. Dr. Bill Releford and the founder of the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, sees the effects of smoking in the African American community on a regular basis.
There is a serious gap in the ability of tobacco addicts in the African American community to access treatment. African American men suffer disproportionately from preventable diseases and have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group. Because of their intense addiction to nicotine (more addictive than heroin), patients often choose smoking over their ability to breathe, or will even sacrifice a foot or leg to amputation. Without increasing their access to treatment, this problem will continue to grow.
Prevention is an excellent and effective long-term solution, but there are thousands of Californians who are suffering from the effects of this terrible addiction, and it is critical that California's policy leaders also bring attention to improving access to treatments that help people quit smoking. True success of California's Tobacco Control Program will be achieved when those addicted to nicotine have the support and resources they need to quit smoking.
Our Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program is addressing the disparities in the African American community head-on by conducting early detection and intervention activities in black barbershops across the country. However, we need the help of policymakers. In the meantime, on May 2, healthcare workers will participate in "Black Barbershop Health Day," conducting preventive testing and disseminating educational material in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, Vallejo, Fresno, San Bernardino, Riverside, Inland Empire and San Diego. For more information, visit the Black Barbershop Health Outreach website.
Approximately 80% of African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. A ban on menthol cigarettes is being pushed by seven former U.S. health secretaries including Tommy Thompson and Donna Shalala. They sent a letter to congress calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes. U.S. - Bill for FDA to regulate tobacco BAN MENTHOL.., Samuel Garten, Ph.D., M.S., M.S. and R. Victor Falkner, M.A., M.S., M.A.L.S. TobaccoWatch.org.
Reference: African Americans need more help to stop smoking by Bill J. Releford, Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2009.