Tobacco Free Adagio Health fights tobacco use in African American communities

Tobacco Free Adagio Health fights tobacco use in African American communities

Black History Month provides opportunity to spread awareness of historically unfair marketing practices

Pittsburgh, PA (February 16, 2023) – As we recognize Black History Month, Adagio Health is reflecting on health inequities that continue to impact the African American community. For many years, tobacco companies targeted people of color with marketing and advertisements predominantly centered in African American and minority neighborhoods. Menthol cigarettes were also heavily marketed toward Black Americans. Menthol provides the “smooth” flavor in tobacco products that reduces harshness of smoking, making it difficult to quit for an individual. In Allegheny County alone, 16% of African Americans identified as smokers in 2021 – a rate higher than the Pennsylvania state average, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. And according to a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85% of Black smokers preferred menthol cigarettes.

Over 20,000 Pennsylvania residents die, and thousands get sick because of tobacco-related diseases like cancer, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and stroke. And tobacco use continues to be one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, according to the CDC.

Even if an individual is a nonsmoker, African Americans have a higher risk of exposure to secondhand smoke than people from other racial backgrounds.

“A key focus of our work in Allegheny County is prioritizing the most vulnerable communities, which often includes people of color, youth, and the LGBTQ+ community,” said Casey Monroe, Vice President of Disease Prevention Programs at Adagio Health. “With a focus on health equity, we work to combat institutionalized stressors often placed on these vulnerable communities through our programming, which includes prevention, education, and cessation services.”

In 2021, Tobacco Free Adagio Health (TFAH) piloted a program to help prenatal mothers quit smoking and provided them additional education and resources to care for their growing families. TFAH also has a presence in historic African American neighborhoods, like Homewood and the Hill District. In these areas, TFAH partners with local libraries, YMCAs, and schools to help develop tobacco– and smoke-free policies, educational programming, and cessation resources.

At a national level, TFAH partners with the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation and Duquesne University’s Center for Integrative Health to provide counseling and educational programming to individuals and school districts.

Spreading awareness and providing support to the African American community can make a big difference in helping someone quit. The dangers of tobacco are also being addressed by the federal government with the FDA in April 2022 announcing plans to ban all flavor additives in cigars and cigarettes (including menthol).

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra says, “These efforts represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.”

TFAH also manages the Tobacco Resistance Unit, or TRU, which helps young adults in Pennsylvania (ages 12 to 18) stay tobacco- and nicotine-free. According to the CDC, nearly 9 out of 10 adults who smoke cigarettes daily first try smoking by age 18. The outreach and educational knowledge that TRU provides is critical to stopping youth from using tobacco products at a young age, leading them to make informed health decisions later in life.

For more information on TFAH and TRU:
What is TRU?  Tobacco Free Adagio Health

For more information on TFAH’s policies and programs, visit or email