Skip to content

Black People, Public Health and Tobacco Use

a black man holding a cigarette

This is a report featuring a virtual discussion with LaDarius Gammage of the Florida Department of Health.

For generations, the African-American adult population has been devastated by tobacco use in unique and pernicious ways. This demographic has one of the highest rates of tobacco use among all racial and ethnic groups. 

While Black adults statistically don’t smoke as much as Whites per day, they tend to die from smoking-related diseases – think heart disease and diabetes – more than White and Hispanic people. 

And when they do light up, most prefer the menthol variety, which are harder to quit.

“When they realized we love menthol cigarettes, when they realized we love that menthol flavor,” said LaDarius Gammage, referring to “Big Tobacco” companies, “They began to push it on us.”

LaDarius Gammage of the Florida Department of Health.

A study published by Tobacco Control found that between 1980-2018, menthol cigarettes were responsible for 1.5 million African-American smokers – a number that exceeds the population of Dallas.

That same report found that, among that number, 157,000 died from premature smoking-related deaths, which also represents a cumulative of about 1.5 million life-years lost.   

As the Florida Department of Health’s Health Equity & Special Projects Coordinator, Gammage has dedicated his career to helping people stop smoking.  

In a recent virtual discussion with Black Men’s Health, Gammage talked about the dangers of menthol cigarettes and e-cigarettes. He also spoke about why you should avoid hookah altogether, including going to hookah bars. 

You can tap into this valuable, wide-ranging discussion by clicking the video link below. If you know anyone who smokes and/or is struggling to quit, please pass along this link. It could save their life.

An Early Life of Football, Family and Education 

2:59 – LaDarius Gammage on his most memorable times as a high school football linebacker.

5:49 – How his family influenced him growing up.

9:11 – Gammage on how his intellectual interests took shape and why he almost became a historian.  

10:36 – What made him decide to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. 

Making an Impact for a Living

15:43 – Gammage on why he lives to make an impact.

16:11 – His work at the Florida Department of Health as the Health Equity & Special Projects Coordinator.

Hookah, E-Cigarettes and Tobacco Use: It’s Not a Game

19:09 – He speaks on the troubling use of hookah and tobacco products among young people.

21:10 – Why e-cigarettes are so dangerous.

25:34 – Gammage on vaping and vaping devices and whether they pose second-hand danger.

28:59 – He talks about the risks of going to hookah bars.

33:27 – Why the vapor from e-cigarettes is every bit as harmful as regular cigarette smoke.

How “Big Tobacco” Preys on the Black Community 

37:46 – Gammage on how “Big Tobacco” companies have marketed their products to the Black community for generations.

44:59 – More on  “Big Tobacco” advertising and promotional tactics.

46:55 – He speaks on what needs to happen to reverse the use of tobacco in Black and Brown communities.

Heping Black and Brown People Quit Smoking

48:15 – Gammage on why he’s so passionate about getting people to stop smoking.  

49:43 – His observations on what makes people stop smoking.

50:54 – Available resources for people who want to quit smoking.

53:09 – The problem of Menthol cigarettes in the African-American community.

LaDarius is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Public Health at Florida A&M University. He obtained his Master’s in public health from Florida A&M University back in 2016.  Mr. Gammage serves as a mentor for youth and is a youth engagement specialist that provides skills-building workshops to help develop and prepare the leaders of tomorrow in his community.

Professionally, LaDarius currently presides as the Statewide  Health Equity and Special Projects Coordinator  for the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida. He recently transitioned from being the Statewide Youth Advocacy Coordinator at the Florida Department of Health (DOH) for Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). As the Statewide Program Manager for SWAT, every day LaDarius worked with talented youth and excellent local county coordinators to decrease the inhaled nicotine rate of youth within Florida. In his current programmatic role at DOH, LaDarius has serves the State of Florida on many community health initiatives and projects. Ultimately, he wishes to reduce health disparities and increase the promotion of health equity.

Share this article:

Recent Posts

Be Empowered!

Sign up for BMHnews+ to get the latest Health and Wellness news for men of color.

Get notified when we drop our latest content.