E-cigarettes may be less Harmful than Traditional Cigarettes, but Black Population Less Likely to Use

E-cigarettes have gained in popularity but not within the Black community.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics, 4.5 percent of U.S. adults were electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) users. Ellen A. Kramarow, Ph.D., and Nazik Elgaddal, from the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, used data from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey to describe the percentage of adults who currently use e-cigarettes by socio-demographic characteristics. The authors also examined the dual use of both e-cigarettes and cigarettes.

“Dual use of tobacco products is a health concern because it may result in greater exposure to toxins and worse respiratory outcomes than using either product alone,” the authors write.

Based on the results of the study, researchers found that 4.5 percent of adults who are age 18 years and older chose to use  e-cigarettes in 2021. However, researches also found there is a variation in current e-cigarette use by race and Hispanic origin; the percentage of current use was higher among White non-Hispanic adults than among Asian non-Hispanic, Black or African American non-Hispanic, and Hispanic or Latino adults (5.2 percent versus 2.9, 2.4, and 3.3 percent, respectively). 

Growing evidence indicates that e-cigarettes may serve as a less harmful alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, but scientists say that socioeconomic and racial inequities in cigarettes and e-cigarette use can prevent certain populations from reaping potential health benefits, according to a new study led by the School of Public Health and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (Keck School of Medicine at USC).

Boston University also conducted research on e-cigarettes and revealed that Blacks individuals are disproportionately affected by smoking-related diseases and health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular complications. Still, misperceptions in vaping risks have prevented e-cigarette uptake as a smoking cessation tool which is further exacerbating racial and health disparities in smoking. 

Among adults aged 18 years and older, e-cigarette use generally declined with increasing family income. Dual use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes was more likely among adults aged 18 to 24 and 25 to 44 years than among adults aged 45 years and older.

According to the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, there is consistently a greater number of tobacco advertisements in African American neighborhoods compared to other areas. Around 14 percent of Black people use tobacco products in the United States. Although African Americans smoke at lower rates compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Blacks are disproportionately affected by tobacco use, resulting in higher death rates from tobacco-related causes.

Healthcare experts say cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the US.

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