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Cancer and Tobacco Use Disparities and Health Equity

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, accounting for about 1 in 5 deaths each year. Smoking causes about 80% of lung cancers and is responsible for about 80% of deaths from lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in people in the US.

While there’s been progress in the US to reduce tobacco use, people who are part of certain racial or ethnic minority groups, who have low income, and adults with less than a high school education, are more likely to use tobacco and have worse outcomes if they develop cancer. These disparities in tobacco use and cancer outcomes are due to a complex set of factors, including social determinants of health, as well as access to health care, systemic racism, and discrimination.

Additionally, the tobacco industry has historically targeted Black/African-American communities with marketing and advertising, leading to higher rates of tobacco use and related health problems.

Achieving health equity in the context of cancer and tobacco use requires a multifaceted approach, including:

  • Addressing national and state policies aimed at reducing tobacco use
  • Improving access to health care and cancer screening
  • Addressing the root causes of health disparities

Our Research Focus

The American Cancer Society (ACS) Tobacco Control Research (TCR) team is currently addressing health inequities by examining rates of tobacco use among various subpopulations and geographical locations and conducting research to better understand the intended and unintended impact of tobacco control (including related public policies) on health disparities.