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Tobacco addiction more prevalent in LGBT and African-American communities

smoking-1026559_960_720Standing outside corporate buildings, schools, bus stops or train stops, people can be seen lighting cigarettes. Rain or shine, adults, students, and teens will stop what they are doing to smoke.

Jennifer Herd, senior health policy analyst, said most people start smoking in their teens. The percentage of teens smoking has dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent within the last few years.

“This decrease shows that our program is actually working,” Herd said speaking about Nobody Quits Like Chicagoland week.

Nobody Quits Like Chicagoland is a week designated to efforts in stopping people from smoking. Programs range from quick facts, to learning about diseases that can come from smoking, etc. It aims to raise awareness about resources available to help Chicagoans quit smoking, according to Herd.

This year of Nobody Quits Like Chicagoland will start in November, marking its third year.

“It’s an education campaign,” Herd said. “We are adding the Chicago metro region to have more people get involved.”

While teens make up a major percentage of people smoking today, LGBT and African Americans are up there as well, according to Herd.

“Our goal is to reach them [this year],” Herd said. “LGBT and African Americans are our primary focus.”

Nico Probst, Chicago’s government relations director for the American Cancer Society, said African Americans have two times the risk of feeling the side effects of cigarette smoking, and have a higher chance of getting sick from smoking.

“The tobacco companies are specifically targeting LGBT and African American communities,” Probst said. “They use tactics designed for them to sell their products.”

Donna Scrutchins, director of the tobacco prevention program for the Chicago Board of Public Health, said 85 percent of African Americans are addicted to cigarettes.

“The biggest problem is the methanol,” Scrutchins said. “I will fight to my last breath to have it removed from cigarettes.”


Scrutchins said the methanol isn’t just an ingredient – it’s a flavor.

Probst said some companies use neon green packaging of their methanol cigarettes to represent the “cool sensation of mint.”

“The methanol makes it easier to inhale the smoke and takes away some of the harshness from smoking,” Probst said.

Probst said smoking methanol cigarettes decreases people’s metabolism and increases the addictive substance in their blood.

Scrutchins’s tobacco prevention program has called on Obama and is currently trying to remove methanol from all cigarettes.

“If tobacco companies can remove other flavors, why can’t they remove methanol?” Scrutchins said.

After quitting smoking in 1996, Scrutchins made it her mission to make sure the money from public funds the city gets is spread throughout communities along the West and South Side of Chicago.

“Because of the lack of funding, there are no resources in some communities, which results in people having a tougher time quitting,” Scrutchins said. “I want to bring awareness to them, and I want to ask ‘what more can we do?’”

Probst said the American Cancer Society ’s goal is to get tobacco products off the shelves.

“We question ourselves, ‘how do we prevent the next generation of users?’” Probst said. “It’s a full 360 approach to prevention.”





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