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Did you know that, as of last year, an estimated 19.2 percent of U.S. smokers were black women? Though as a group we represent the lowest percentageof youth/teen smokers, and though we are far less less likely to smoke while pregnant than white women (Latino women have both groups beat, with a very low 6.5 percentage of pregnant smokers), there’s still a significant number of us out here, struggling to kick the habit. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 70 percent of smokers have some desire to quit, but that black smokers have the most difficult time doing so.

Though discussions about blacks and smoking often mention targeted marketing as a predominant reason why we pick up the habit, there are likely as many reasons for blacks to smoke as there are for any other cultural group. Social and emotional factors are also in play, such as growing up in a household where smoking occurred or using cigarettes as a stress reliever. Dr. Ernest Levister Jr., a columnist with Blackvoicenews.com, notes that regardless of cost, quitting takes a great deal of outside support:

The wake-me-up, pick-me-up, after dinner, stress relief smokes turn into must-have coping strategies, helping black women get through life’s daily dramas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services understands this behavioral and physical addiction connection. As a result it recommends both “social” and “chain” smokers be treated aggressively with the help of a doctor or certified smoking cessation specialist. Free clinics are available through your local social services agency.

In an Essence.com article last year, writer Danielle Moodie-Mills talked about her own struggle to quit smoking. She noted a preference for menthols:

… Men generally have higher rates of smoking than women, except when it comes to menthol cigarettes. An estimated 85 percent of African-American women smokers puff on menthols — the highest rate among all smokers in the United States….  My experience was not unique, as statistics indicate. But I’ve often wondered if I would have developed a smoking habit that lasted well into my twenties if the “sweet minty” cigarettes weren’t on the market.

Are you or have you ever been a smoker? Were menthols your type of choice? If you successfully quit, how did you kick the habit?

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  • K

    i was a smoker for a few (4)years. I actually started in college. It start out as social smoking, your out someone is smoking you have one thats the end of it. Surprisingly when I graduated college the habit did not continue but about a year or so after I returned home. I started smoking full time. it was an extremely stressful period in my life as after graduation i saw things were not going as planned.. I smoked menthols and it was EXTREMELY hard to quit. I finally quit less than a year ago after I got sick, it was a cold i guess, but i was hacking, coughing and throat was extremely sore so i COULDNT smoke and took that couple week period I couldnt to quit for good. Ill be smoke free for a year now August 13. I just want people to realize that its so hard to quit. I think most ppl view smokers and something you can easily quit and oh it nasty and smelly and just stop and its just not that easy

  • Never. I have a negative view of smoking (anything) and I couldn’t be with someone who smokes. My mom was the hostess with mostess but she would put guests out of the terrace like that if they wanted to light a cigarette. I can’t stand the smell anyway.

  • steff

    I smoke and tbh I can’t quit because I don’t really want to. I love smoking and I know is disgusting and awful for my health but currently it’s the only thing that calms me down in my stressful life. I find in the UK when black people see me smoking, their shocked. I think when im ready il quit, butt at this moment in time I have no plans

  • I have been regularly smoking black and milds for about 4 years now. Recently I have picked up the nasty habit of smoking camel menthols. I bought one pack a week ago and do not plan on buying another pack, ever ! Taking it one day at a time, and it is hard !

  • Hota

    I’ve never wanted to smoke and never have. The nearest I’ve come is staying with friends on their smoke breaks, though for the sake of my lungs I should really go without their company for the five minutes it takes.
    I grew up with a number of “secret smokers” though, which sort of gave me the idea that it was a shameful sort of thing. My aunt and uncle lied to each other about their smoking habits when they were first dating, and later helped each other quit. My grandmother smoked so secretly (and infrequently, I believe) that I didn’t realize she hadn’t quit decades ago until I was 16. My father often told stories of cold turkey quitting after his “last cigarette” at a new year’s party before I was born, but I saw him smoking once when I was 12. I remember feeling that it was an acute betrayal.