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Latinos and Tobacco

Latinos and Tobacco

Historically tobacco companies have targeted Latinos and other communities of color in their advertisement campaigns. As early as the 1980s, big tobacco companies targeted marketing towards the Hispanic/Latino population because they deemed the population “lucrative,” “easy to reach” and “under-marketed.”

Within the Hispanic/Latino community there are differences in smoking rates when broken down into specific subpopulations. These statistics can often be overlooked when surveys classify Hispanics/Latinos as a single population. However, Latinos are not a monolithic group. For example, according to an analysis of survey published by the CDC for their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), data from 2009-2013 showed 21.6 percent of Puerto Ricans, 18.2 percent of Cubans, 13 percent of Mexicans, and 9.2 percent of Central or South Americans are current smokers (the overall smoking prevalence for Hispanics during this time period was 13.5%). Furthermore, in 2015, 56.2% of Hispanic/Latino smokers had made an attempt to quit in the past year. However, Hispanic/Latino smokers were less likely to receive advice to quit from a health professional compared to white smokers.

According to a study published in 2020 by the CDC for their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among Hispanic/Latino youth, with 18.9% of Hispanic/Latino high school students currently using e-cigarettes.


It is important to address how tobacco products continue to negatively impact the health and wellbeing of Latinos and our youth. Tobacco companies are intentional with their marketing in low-income communities to make smoking appear appealing which then increases adolescents' desire to smoke. In addition to that, these companies offer a variety of tobacco flavors to appeal to younger audiences. There are various tobacco products on the market which include:

  • Cigars/ Cigarillos
    Sales of cigars which can come in large cigars, small cigars and cigarillos have more than doubled between 2000 and 2019, from 6.1 billion cigars to 13.4 billion cigars, and sales have been generally increasing at a time when cigarette smoking has been declining.
  • Smokeless
    Since 1970, smokeless tobacco has gone from a product used primarily by older men to one used predominantly by young men and boys.
  • Hookah
    Hookah smoking, also referred to as waterpipe, shisha, narghile, argileh, hubble-bubble, goza, is becoming more popular and trendy. Hookah has become popular particularly among youth and college students. Despite the different way of smoking, hookahs still use tobacco, expose users to nicotine, and increase health risks. The social aspect of hookah use attracts younger users, and the wide variety of kid-friendly hookah tobacco flavors makes it even more appealing.
  • E-cigarettes
    The term “electronic cigarettes” encompasses a wide variety of products which can include products that look like cigarettes, pens or USB drives to larger products like “personal vaporizers” and “tank systems.” Instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes often use a battery-powered coil to turn a liquid solution into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.
    These new products are usually very cheap, come in various sizes and flavors, and can even contain high concentrations of nicotine.

Youth and Tobacco

According to the CDC, E-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among youth since 2014. About 1 of every 5 high school students (19.6%) reported in 2020 that they used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days—a decrease from 27.5% in 2019. In 2020, nearly 7 of every 100 middle school students (6.7%) and about 23 of every 100 high school students (23.6%) reported current use of a tobacco product.Youth who use multiple tobacco products are at higher risk for developing nicotine dependence and might be more likely to continue using tobacco into adulthood.

Health Impacts

LULAC is dedicated to healthy equity among the Latino community. That is why we launched our Latinos Living Healthy initiative to discuss the health issues that impact our community including tobacco-use, obesity, HIV/AID, and lack of representation in clinical research. LULAC’s plan is to address these health inequalities by providing educational resources and webinars. . LULAC’s work addresses individual and community change, including developing and sustaining partnerships with local communities, schools, health care providers, and government agencies.

Furthermore, each year, more than 43,000 Hispanics are diagnosed with tobacco-related cancer and more than 18,000 die from tobacco-related cancer. Additionally, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic men and the second leading cause among Hispanic women. Cancer, heart disease, and stroke can all be caused by cigarette smoking. These are among the five leading causes of death among Hispanics. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among Hispanics. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for cigarette smokers than nonsmokers.

Furthermore, large tobacco companies have expanded their products to appeal to new populations with their e-cigarettes and branded them to be modern, sleek, innovative and safer for consumers. However, e-cigarettes are just as harmful. Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and ingredients including ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs and flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease.

COVID-19 and smoking

The coronavirus attacks the lungs and those who are smokers are put at greater risk. According to the CDC, those who are current or former cigarette smokers are more likely to develop a severe illness and symptoms from COVID-19. That is why it is so critical now to quit smoking and vaping.

How you can get involved

It is imperative that we leverage our voices and advocate for our communities to change policies. Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products is an important step in protecting our youth from these big tobacco companies that continue to target them in their advertisements. There are many different ways to get involved. This can include:

  • Write and Op-Ed or Letters to the editor on the impact of tobacco use and the Hispanic community
  • Urge the FDA to prohibit all flavored tobacco products! Find more information at
  • Reach out to your legislators and urge them to prohibit all flavored tobacco products!
  • Join Tobacco-Free Kids National Day of Action!
  • Join a campaign to prohibit flavored tobacco products, reach out to Jennifer Reyes ( for more information on campaigns in your area

On July 14, 2021, LULAC signed onto the Tobacco Equity Tax Act. The Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 2021 would close tax code loopholes for tobacco products by increasing the federal tax rate on cigarettes, pegging it to inflation to ensure it remains an effective public health tool, and setting the federal tax rate for all other tobacco products at this same level.

On September 14, 2021, LULAC signed on to Tobacco Free Kids’ letter in support of Tobacco Tax in the Build Back Better package. These provisions will generate substantial benefits to public health by helping prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products and encouraging current users to quit. Additionally, they will increase federal revenues, including by closing existing tax loopholes that have created incentives for tax avoidance.

Resources to quit smoking