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Public Comments

March 9, 2004: Tobacco-Related Disparities Among Racial/Ethnic Populations





Jeannette Noltenius, Out of Many, One, commended the Committee for addressing the issue of tobacco-related disparities and reiterated several of the points that had been made by the morning speakers: the need for better accountability; more researchers from racial and ethnic communities; and additional funding, particularly from the federal government. Ms. Noltenius applauded HHS for the announcement of a national quitline, but cautioned that additional resources were needed to fund it and should not be taken from the existing budget of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.

Helen Lettlow, American Legacy Foundation, discussed Legacy's commitment to programs designed to reduce tobacco use among priority populations that have been disproportionately impacted by tobacco. Through Legacy's Priority Population Initiative, the foundation awarded more than $24 million in grants over three years to organizations that work to reduce the toll of tobacco on underserved populations.

Ms. Lettlow offered several recommendations including—

  • Federal funding should be directed to sustainable grassroots efforts to integrate tobacco into existing programming
  • Focus on class-based disparities over population-based disparities. This should include access by the poor and working poor to Medicaid-funded cessation counseling and treatment
  • Develop new resources to assist smokers with quit attempts, particularly for low income and racial/ethnic minorities who have a more difficult time quitting

Dianne Wilson, South Carolina African American Tobacco Control Network, emphasized the importance of CDC funding in supporting local tobacco control efforts. However, she also expressed a need for greater involvement of community members in statewide planning and the importance of holding state health departments accountable for reaching ethnic populations.

The Reverend Jesse Brown, National Association of African Americans for Positive Imagery (NAAAPI), asked a series of questions for consideration by the committee focusing on sustainability and the need for additional resources to support tobacco control efforts in racial/ethnic communities.

Patricia Sosa, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, addressed several of the issues raised in the morning presentations including the need for better data on ethnicity and tobacco use and she also mentioned that comprehensive tobacco control programs still have not been implemented in many states. Ms. Sosa briefly highlighted the Indiana tobacco control program and praised it for its emphasis on community-based programs and a commitment to ethnic communities. Finally, from a policy perspective, Ms. Sosa talked about the importance of earmarking tobacco tax revenues for tobacco control efforts and the need for FDA regulation of tobacco products.

Josephine Kershaw, Florida A&M University, emphasized the need for targeted research funding for specific subpopulations because there is so little known about some of these groups. She also mentioned the importance of providing grant writing technical assistance to communities that might not have the expertise, as well as the need for culturally competent advocates for these populations.

Juan Carlos Vega, The Praxis Project, questioned the Committee about the lack of representation from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community at this meeting. He cited high rates of tobacco use among the GLBT community particularly in minority communities.

Following the Public Comment period, Dr. Carmona thanked Howard University for the use of its space, and the Committee for its time and thoughtful insight.

The Surgeon General welcomed future meetings on this issue and said that he would be meeting with staff from the Office on Smoking and Health to discuss next steps.

The meeting adjourned at 4:10 p.m.

 
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