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Black History Month: Honoring Black Health and Wellness

February marks Black History Month. This is an annual event to honor and celebrate the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans. The theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness. It aims to acknowledge the legacy of Black scholars and medical practitioners throughout the Black Diaspora.  For more about the theme, please click here.

We’re highlighting Black History Month because the Black community faces higher rates of lung health issues. This post will touch on housing, smoking and secondhand smoke among the Black American community.



In 2019, about 12.8% of the US population were those who were Black. The average median household income for Black households was $43,771 compared to $71,664 for white households.1 During the same year, just over 20% of renters were Black. The percentage was almost 2.5 times higher than the percentage of homeowners who were Black (8.2.%).2 Comparatively, 75.1% of homeowners and 51.8% of renters were white.2

Homeownership can help individuals, regardless of race, avoid unwanted secondhand smoke. However, homeownership isn’t realistic for every individual who wants it. Every state, including Alaska, lacks affordable rental homes.3 This can make it challenging to save for buying a home. With a lower average median household income, Black Americans may face more difficulties saving for a home. Racial discrimination in real estate, lending practices, and federal housing policy can also make homeownership difficult for certain communities of color.4

Therefore, to help reduce unwanted secondhand smoke exposure, multiunit housing entities can help create smokefree environments by adopting smokefree policies. These policies can encourage some who smoke to quit as well. If you are interested in learning more about smokefree polices, please contact the American Lung Association in Alaska at 907-931-5470 or email at


Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Black American youth and young adults smoke at lower rates than white youth. Adults smoke at similar rates when comparing races. Though Black men are more likely to smoke than white men. Black women were less likely to smoke than white women.5

Most Black smokers use menthol cigarettes. This type of cigarette increases the likelihood of individuals becoming addicted, the degree of addiction and masks early warning symptoms of smoking-induced respiratory problems. Research indicates that those who smoke menthol cigarettes are less likely to successfully quit smoking.6

Secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmoking adults decreased from 27.7% in 2009 to 20.7% in 2017. While Black nonsmokers were among the racial groups that saw a decline in secondhand smoke exposure, they were still noticeably more likely to be exposed than other races. Secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmoking adults by race were:

  • Black American: 41.5%
  • Asian American: 22.7%
  • White: 17.8%
  • Hispanic: 16.2%7

Despite similar overall smoking rates, Black Americans are more likely to die of tobacco-related causes than white Americans.8 Black Americans are more likely to have asthma, which can be negatively impacted by smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. They are also more likely to have many of the cancers associated with smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.

Marijuana Use 

  • In 2020, 42.3% of Black Americans aged 12 and older used marijuana in their lifetime, compared to 51.3% of white Americans
  • 14.2% of Black Americans aged 12 and older used marijuana in the past month compared to 12.5% of white Americans
  • 19.4% of Black Americans aged 12 and older used marijuana in the past year, compared to 19.1% of white Americans
  • Among both races, those aged 18-25 were most likely to use marijuana in each time category, followed by those over the age of 26 (9)

Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. It also contains some of those chemicals in higher amounts. This raises concerns that secondhand smoke can cause similar health risks to what secondhand cigarette smoke causes. THC can be passed to infants and children via secondhand smoke. Studies have found strong associations between reports of having someone in the home who uses marijuana and the child having detectable levels of THC. Exposure to THC is potentially a source for negative health effects. More research is needed to understand how secondhand marihuana exposure may effect children. (10)

Learn more about the health effects of marijuana on your health at Health Effects of Marijuana | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC. Due to current known effects and potential health effects of marijuana smoke, property managers should consider including marijuana in their smokefree policies.

Additional Resources



  1. Black/African American – The Office of Minority Health (
  2. Who rents and who owns in the U.S. | Pew Research Center
  3. The Gap | National Low Income Housing Coalition (
  4. Racial Disparities Among Extremely Low-Income Renters | National Low Income Housing Coalition (
  5. Tobacco Use in Racial and Ethnic Populations | American Lung Association
  6. What Is Menthol? | American Lung Association
  7. QuickStats: Trends in Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Nonsmoking Adults, by Race and Hispanic Origin — National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 2009–2018 | MMWR (
  8. How to Reduce Racial Disparities in Smoking Deaths – Scientific American
  9. Section 1 PE Tables – Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, SAMHSA, CBHSQ
  10. Secondhand Marijuana Smoke | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC

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