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

Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, Surgeon General

Dana Shelton, Associate Director for Policy, Planning and Coordination at the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health and Executive Secretary for the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health, welcomed participants to the meeting and introduced the Chair of the Committee, Surgeon General Richard Carmona.

Dr. Carmona began by thanking Howard University for providing the meeting space and emphasized how strongly he feels about convening meetings such as these in community settings.

Dr. Carmona provided a brief overview of several federal initiatives that address the issue of eliminating disparities in health including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' "Closing the Health Gap," and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's National Healthcare Disparities Report. This report is the first national comprehensive effort to measure differences in access and use of healthcare services by various populations.

The Surgeon General continued by talking about two HHS publications specifically addressing the issue of tobacco-related disparities. The first is the 1998 Surgeon General's Report on smoking, "Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups." The four population groups addressed in the report—African American, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Natives, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—are the same groups to be discussed during the day's meeting. The report emphasizes that no single factor determines the patterns of tobacco use among racial/ethnic groups, but rather multiple factors are at work such as socioeconomic status, cultural characteristics, acculturation, stress, targeted advertising, price of tobacco products, and the capacities of communities to mount effective tobacco control programs.

The second publication, an article in the January 30, 2004 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), focuses on "Prevalence of Cigarette Use Among 14 Racial/Ethnic Populations—United States 1999–2001," and provides the first-ever snapshot of national smoking prevalence data for both youth and adults among 14 ethnic/racial groups in the United States The conclusions of this article are consistent with those from the 1998 Surgeon General's report.

Dr. Carmona concluded his remarks by stating the purpose of the day's meeting—to review and better understand the magnitude of the tobacco use burden in communities of color by looking at the scientific data and hearing from community representatives.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Dr. Carmona introduced Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), who commended the Committee for addressing the issue of disparities. Dr. von Eschenbach told the Committee that NCI was strongly committed to addressing the issue of the high cancer burden among underserved populations and that tobacco use was a strong contributor to this burden. Although Dr. von Eschenbach would not be able to attend the remainder of the meeting, he introduced Dr. Scott Leischow, Associate Director, Behavioral Research Program, and told Committee members that Dr. Leischow would be representing NCI during the meeting.

Rosemarie Henson, Director, Office on Smoking and Health, asked committee members to introduce themselves. Following the introductions, Ms. Henson reviewed the agenda and purpose for the meeting and introduced the first speaker. The purpose of the meeting was to review CDC's progress and better understand the magnitude of tobacco use burden in racial/ethnic groups, looking at the scientific data, as well as hearing from community leaders regarding the unique issues, programs, and initiatives in their communities.

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