This project aims to advance tobacco-free communities in Erie and Niagara Counties through education, community mobilization, and policy change in order to reduce the burden of tobacco use and prevent future initiation.
Although cigarette use among adults has generally declined in recent years, poor communities, particularly communities of color, have been left behind in the advancements made in tobacco control. These disparities have been exacerbated by the aggressive behavior of the tobacco industry in poor communities and communities of color.
Across New York State, about 12.8 percent of people smoke, according to data from 2018. These rates are much higher in Erie and Niagara counties, at 17.8 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively. Furthermore, a study in 2013 found that smoking rates were highest among adults with household incomes less than $15,000. Disparities are particularly stark related to menthol use. Menthol cigarettes are used by more than half of adult smokers in New York State and are especially concerning as they are easier to start and harder to quit, and they mask the harshness of inhaling smoke. These rates are even higher among minority groups, with 86 percent of Black and 72 percent of Hispanic smokers using menthol cigarettes.
CAI convenes the Tobacco-Free Erie and Niagara Counties, bringing together community members, educators, health care providers, elected officials, and policymakers and strengthening their capacity to change policies and practices in these communities. We use a community-based participatory research approach to meaningfully engage communities. We also empower and train youth as champions across counties in a statewide movement, “Reality Check,” which supports youth in speaking up against tobacco use and fostering a tobacco-free culture.
Shifting social norms in order to end tobacco use is the ultimate goal of this project. Creating environments like smoke-free parks and housing, and limiting the density of tobacco licenses, are components to facilitate that change. New York State continually monitors the prevalence of tobacco use within both the adult and youth populations as a measure of success.
This project has an additional focus to reduce tobacco use by individuals in priority populations where the marketing of tobacco has disproportionately targeted communities.
Project funder and key partners
- Funder: A grant from the New York State Bureau of Tobacco Control’s Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities.
- Partners: The project is led by CAI, in close collaboration with organizations, partners, and youth in Erie and Niagara Counties.
Leadership and contact
Michelle Gerka, CAI Vice President for Community Health: email@example.com.