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Preventing Smoking-Related Deaths

Cigarette smoking is responsible for 480,000 premature deaths and more than $240 billion in U.S. healthcare spending annually and nearly $185 billion in lost productivity. These numbers do not take into account cancer deaths caused by secondhand smoke which causes nearly 42,000 deaths among people who do not smoke, including up to 7,300 lung cancer deaths. Tobacco use causes about one-third of cancer deaths in the nation overall, but the burden varies by state, according to the website of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

The 15 states with the greatest proportion of smoking-related cancer deaths in 2020 – Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia – also have historically higher tobacco use rates, excluding Maine. West Virginia had the greatest proportion of smoking-related cancer deaths – 37.8 percent or 1,339 adults – caused by cigarette smoking. Texas had 8,351 cancer deaths related to smoking, which ranked it No. 40.

Along with this new data, ACS CAN recently said the White House’s “continued inaction (to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars) is a shocking deference to the tobacco industry, which has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to profit from products that result in death. … This inaction comes at the same time as the White House declared April as National Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Month. With 30% of all cancer deaths due to smoking, the president must meaningfully address tobacco in order to significantly reduce the number of new cancer diagnoses.”

Big Tobacco has used these products for decades to target Black communities, who, as a result, consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use. 83.1% of Black people who smoke use menthol cigarettes, as compared to 48% of Hispanic people who smoke, 41.5% of Asian people who smoke, and 31.6% of white people who smoke, said ACS CAN. Citing these alarming statistics, 32 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the FDA in August supporting these new rules. Additionally, an estimated 420,000 U.S. students currently used cigars in 2023. Youth who are Black, Hispanic, or Latino are twice as likely to regularly smoke cigars than their white peers.

ACS CAN said Big Tobacco continues to target youth with their cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars which are all sold in appealing flavors such as menthol, banana, mango, grape, Tropical Twist, Purple Swish and chocolate. In order to reduce tobacco-related cancer deaths and achieve health equity, ACS CAN advocacy work includes adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs that work to
identify and eliminate tobacco-related disparities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national Tips from Former Smokers campaign and state-based programs; and advocating for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its full authority to regulate tobacco products and prohibit all flavored products, including menthol.

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