Monday, January 21st is Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, a day to remember his dream of equality as well as the work that’s been done to make that dream a reality. Efforts are still needed in Wisconsin to fulfill Dr. King’s dream, particularly around the issue of health inequities linked to tobacco use.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently announced an all-time low smoking rate for the state of 16%. Compared to that overall number, 28% of Wisconsin African Americans smoke, while 29% of those with an annual income of less than $25,000 smoke.
It’s no coincidence that these populations smoke at higher rates than the state average. When you take a walk around minority and lower-income communities in Milwaukee, tobacco advertisements featuring people of color and menthol products, which are more dangerous and addictive, are everywhere. It’s all part of a deliberate and targeted advertising campaign that increases the burden of tobacco use in my neighborhood and attracts the next generation of smokers. The kids.
African-Americans and individuals with low income or education aren’t the only groups disproportionately affected by tobacco. People with mental illness and the LGBTQ community are two other groups that smoke at much higher rates than the general population.
The Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention & Poverty Network is working to decrease tobacco related disparities in our community by connecting adults with quit smoking resources and involving youth and adults in local tobacco prevention and control activities. The Network is also working to increase public awareness on the connection between higher Tobacco Retailer Density (number of stores that sell tobacco in a certain area) and higher rates of smoking and youth exposure to tobacco. To learn more about or join our efforts to reduce tobacco use and support Dr. King’s vision of equality among all, please contact us via our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WiTPPN/.
Co-Chair of the WTPPN Tobacco Retailer Density Subcommittee