Hispanic and Latino People Experience a Health Burden from Commercial Tobacco

Commercial tobacco* gets in the way of achieving health equity for Hispanic/Latino people.

Overhead view of a rural area

There are differences in cigarette smoking by country of birth.

Public health research on United States (U.S.) commercial tobacco use in the U.S. often reports outcomes for diverse groups of Hispanic/Latino people as one group in survey data. As such, data show that Hispanic people in the U.S., on average, smoke at lower rates than people from most other racial/ethnic groups.1 In 2020, 8.2% of Hispanic adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes.2 However, commercial tobacco use varies among diverse Hispanic/Latino population groups. For example:

  • Differences by Country of Birth: Hispanic adults who were born in the U.S. are more likely to smoke cigarettes than Hispanic adults who live in the U.S. but were born in another country.3
  • Puerto Rican people are more likely to smoke than Mexican and Dominican people in the U.S.4
  • People who report Cuban ethnicity who smoke use more cigarettes per day than people from other Hispanic ethnic groups who smoke daily.1 In one study of Hispanic adults in the U.S., about 50% of Cuban men and 35% of Cuban women reported smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day.1

Commercial tobacco use rates among Hispanic/Latino people are also different for youth. For example, the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey5 showed that:

  • 7.4% of Hispanic middle and high school students currently used any tobacco product.
  • 9.1% of Hispanic high school students currently used any tobacco product compared to non-Hispanic White students (16.2%) and non-Hispanic Black students (11.0%).
  • 5.3% of Hispanic middle school students currently used any tobacco product compared to non-Hispanic White students (3.4%) and non-Hispanic Black students (4.5%).

The Hispanic/Latino population comprise 19% of the U.S. population or an estimated 62 million people (including Puerto Rico), representing the nation’s second largest racial/ethnic population segment (after non-Hispanic white people).6,7 However, significant differences in disease prevalence, access to care, and health outcomes exist for Hispanic/Latino communities in the U.S.

Mother and baby at a doctor visit.

Some Hispanic and Latino people experience tobacco product-related health outcomes.

People from some Hispanic ethnic groups suffer from poor health outcomes related to the use of commercial tobacco products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigars.3 For example:

  • Cancer, heart disease, and stroke—all of which can be caused by cigarette smoking—are among the five leading causes of death among Hispanic people.8,9,10
  • Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among Hispanic people.9,11 The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 30% to 40% higher for those who smoke cigarettes than those who don’t smoke, and smoking can worsen complications from diabetes.11
  • Puerto Rican people are more likely to have asthma than any other racial and ethnic group, including Black people and other Hispanic ethnic groups.12 Secondhand smoke—which comes from the burning end of a cigarette or other commercial tobacco product or is breathed out by a person who is smoking—can make asthma symptoms worse, particularly in children.
*“Commercial tobacco” means harmful products that are made and sold by tobacco companies. It does not include “traditional tobacco” used by Indigenous groups for religious or ceremonial purposes.
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