The American Lung Association estimates that in 2008 there were more than 5 million African-American smokers here in the United States. And one of those 5 million was our very own President Obama.
Obama's struggle with quitting smoking was well documented during the presidential election. Yet fortunately, his last medical report — whose findings were released on October 31 — stated that the President is tobacco-free, thank to the help of nicotine chewing gum.
Recently, in a White House video released in conjunction with the 36th annual "Great American Smokeout" hosted by the American Cancer Society, he stated, "The fact is, quitting smoking is hard. Believe me, I know."
He also called out some of the large tobacco companies for challenging legislation that requires that they place graphic warning labels on its packaging. Obama believes this opposition exists because companies "don't want to be honest about the consequences."
"Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable early deaths in this country," Obama says in the video. "We also know that the best way to prevent the health problems that come with smoking is to keep young people from starting in the first place."
In 2009, Obama signed legislation to help keep young people from lighting up. In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved new warning labels that companies would have to place on the top half of cigarette packs. Some of the labels are powerfully graphic and include images of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat, the corpse of a dead smoker, diseased lungs and a smoker wearing an oxygen mask.
Companies, led by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., sued the FDA in August to block the labels, arguing the labels cross the line from fact-based warnings to anti-smoking advocacy. Altria Group Inc., parent company of Marlboro maker Philip Morris USA, is not in the lawsuit.
"Today, some big tobacco companies are trying to block these labels because they don't want to be honest about the consequences of using their products," Obama says. "Unfortunately, this isn't surprising.
"We've always known that the fight to stop smoking in this country won't be easy."
Obama's sentiment, that quitting smoking is extremely challenging, is dead-on, especially for African-Americans.
According to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 76 percent of African-American smokers wanted to quit last year, a whopping 59 percent tried. But only a measly 3.3 percent actually succeeded at it — the lowest success rate among all races and ethnicities.
Want to quit smoking? Go to smokefree.gov for tips on how to make that goal a reality.
(Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)