by WI Staff Writer
Donâ€™t Let Smoking Have the Final Note in Your Life
Courtesy of the American Lung Association of DC
Decades later, the tobacco industry continues to prey on the African American community -- together we can end the industryâ€™s stronghold and the scourge of tobacco addiction.
Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mary Wells, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eddie Kendricks were not merely great entertainers of their time. They were legends who revolutionized the music industry during times of racial prejudice and inequality. Their unwavering courage and unique talent earned them some of the highest accolades in the world, and inspired generations of Black artists to overcome obstacles and to reach their full potential.
Whenever we listen to these singers, many of us remember the smoke filled piano bars and night clubs where they performed, and how â€œsophisticatedâ€ they looked when they lit their cigarettes and belted out a smooth ballad. These fond memories are marred today by the tragic reality that their smoking led to their untimely deaths and robbed the Black community of its brightest stars.
The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting African Americans. Tobacco companies sell billions of tobacco products to African Americans by saturating urban neighborhoods with ads that portray tobacco use as glamorous. According to the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, (NAATPN), African Americans prefer menthol cigarettes, because the mint flavor makes it easier to inhale deeper and take in more nicotine, which leads to quicker addiction. In fact, African Americans smoke fewer cigarettes per day and tend to begin smoking later in life than Caucasians-- but their smoking related disease mortality is higher because of their preference for menthol and other flavored tobacco productsâ€”80 percent of African Americans smoke menthol flavored tobacco products.
Due to the high rates of smoking in the Black community, African Americans suffer from major tobacco-related health disparities that include lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension and stroke, all of which are associated with tobacco use. Each year, 47,000 African Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses and 72 percent of African Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke, which contributes to their high rates of heart disease, cancer and lung disease, including asthma.
The good news is that we have more evidence-based treatments than ever before that can double and even triple a smokerâ€™s chances of quitting for good. And as soon as a smoker quits, the healing process begins. The American Lung Association of DC is providing these free treatments to District residents through the free DC Quitline program, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669). District residents who call will receive free nicotine patches or lozenges and counseling with a certified counselor who will guide them through the process. The DC Quitline is supported by funding from the DC Cancer Consortium and the District of Columbia Department of Health.
Make history today: Donâ€™t buy tobacco products and donâ€™t allow smoking in your home or car to protect children, family and friends from secondhand smoke. Also, join the DC Tobacco Free Coalition to help improve policies that protect communities from the tobacco industry (www.dctff.info/coalition
Nat King Cole (1917-1965)
- American musician hailed as one of the best and most influential pianists and small-group leaders of the swing era.
- Known for popular songs, â€œStraighten Up and Fly Right,â€ â€œL-O-V-E,â€ and â€œUnforgettable.â€
- Heavy Kool menthol cigarettes smoker.
- Died of lung cancer, from smoking.
Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
- American pianist known as the greatest jazz composer and bandleader and one of the originators of big-band jazz. Composed thousands of scores and led his band for more than half a century.
- Washington, DC native.
- Died of lung cancer and pneumonia from smoking.
Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990)
- Singer, actor, dancer whose career spanned more than five decades. Refusal to perform in segregated clubs led to the integration of several venues in Miami and Las Vegas.
- Smoked six packs a day.
- One of few stars to receive Emmy, Tony and Grammy award nominations.
- Died of throat cancer caused by smoking.
Mary Esther Wells (1943-1992)
- Known as the â€œFirst Lady of Motown Records.â€
- Best known for pop hit, â€œMy Guy.â€
- Died at age 49 of laryngeal cancer from smoking.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)
- â€œThe Fist Lady of Songâ€ and the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than 50 years.
- Won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums in her lifetime.
- Suffered from painful complications with her diabetes. Both of her legs were amputated due to poor blood circulation, caused by smoking.
- Died in 1996 due to complications with diabetes and smoking.
Eddie Kendricks (1939-1992)
- Former lead singer of the Temptations, one of the top male singing groups of the 1960â€™s.
- Lead singer on popular tracks, â€œMy Girl,â€ and â€œThe Way You Do the Things You Do.â€
- Died from lung cancer caused by more than 30 years of smoking.