Ethnic minorities are among those most strongly targeted by the tobacco industry's marketing tactics, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, the industry reaches out to African-Americans with campaigns involving menthol cigarettes, which are especially popular in this group. It also markets cigarettes to Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives with brand names like Rio, Dorado and American Spirit, to name some of its tactics.

To counter such ploys and to help promote health among ethnic minority populations, APA's Health Disparities Initiative, headed by Lula Beatty, PhD, former director of the special populations office at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is involved in the following efforts:

  • Developing an APA action plan. In December 2012, APA hosted a multidisciplinary conference in Washington, D.C., to help APA develop a plan to strengthen, expand and enhance its efforts to prevent and treat tobacco use in health priority populations. The conference resulted in 130 recommendations on education and training; materials, resources and publications; partnerships and collaborations; research; advocacy and policy; and funding and reimbursement. For more on the conference, visit www.apa.org/topics/health-disparities/tobacco-meeting.aspx.
  • Creating a mobile app. With a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, APA is developing an app to help psychologists and other health care practitioners find and implement evidence-based practices to reduce tobacco use among underserved populations. It will include information on smoking and tobacco use in different demographic groups; links to best practices; and case examples of psychologists who work in smoking prevention and cessation. 

    A prototype of the app is expected later this year. 
  • Building a best-practices network. APA also is developing a Web-based network of best practices, featuring content similar to that on the app, but with more detailed information on health disparities in smoking and tobacco use.
  • Speaking out to FDA. In November, APA endorsed a research-based petition to FDA along with 24 other groups calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes because of their potential to lure in new smokers and keep others hooked.

— Tori DeAngelis