Tobacco use is the single most important preventable cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes heart disease, several kinds of cancer, and chronic lung disease. Smoking during pregnancy can cause spontaneous abortions, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Diseases arising from tobacco use kill more African Americans each year than car crashes, AIDS, murders, and drug and alcohol abuse combined. Smoking cigarettes puts you at risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke, which are the three leading causes of death for African Americans in the United States.

As of 2011, the percentage of adults (ages 18+) in California who currently smoke cigarettes was 13.7%, the 2nd lowest nationally. In San Mateo County a little more than 10% of the population identifies as a smoker, however the smoking rate for African Americans is greater than 17%.

As disheartening as the figures are for African Americans are, they are even more startling in the Pacific Islander population. About 46 percent of Pacific Islander adults said they were current smokers in a survey conducted by University of Michigan in 2012.

Fifty years after the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress, shows that cigarette smoking is even more hazardous than previously thought. The report warns that, “The burden of smoking-attributable disease and premature death and its high costs to the nation will continue for decades unless smoking prevalence is reduced more rapidly than the current trajectory.” The report also notes that millions of deaths could be averted, “making tobacco control a highest priority in our overall public health commitment and strategy.”

Other forms of tobacco are not safe alternatives to smoking cigarettes. The best way to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke is to quit smoking and give up all tobacco products.  There are a number of free and low cost resources available to San Mateo County residents who want to quit smoking.  Click here for a listing.