WASHINGTON -- Saying that evidence shows black Americans have a much tougher time giving up cigarettes permanently than whites and Latinos, federal health officials announced a new anti-smoking campaign yesterday designed to help them kick the habit for good.
"We have made significant progress against smoking among African-Americans, but blacks still smoke at a higher rate than other U.S. populations," said Robert Robinson of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's office on smoking.
"Smoking represents a serious health risk for all smokers, but the 6 million African-Americans who currently smoke face higher rates of lung cancer, other cancers, heart disease and stroke when compared to whites," he added.
An estimated 46 million Americans now smoke, and 400,000 die every year from cigarette-related diseases. The CDC has estimated that more 45,000 black people died last year from conditions associated with smoking.
Releasing the results of a study, the CDC said that while 42 percent of the smokers it surveyed were able to stay off cigarettes for at least one day, 86 percent of them relapsed and started smoking again. Of black smokers, 49 percent could stop for a day, compared with only 40 percent of whites, the CDC said.
But blacks were the least likely to remain off cigarettes, with fewer than 8 percent abstaining for at least one month, compared with 14 percent of the whites who smoke and 16 percent of Latinos, CDC said.
Mr. Robinson said experts were baffled as to why blacks are less likely to remain off cigarettes than other groups, but "black smokers appear to be more dependent on nicotine than whites," possibly because they smoke cigarettes with a higher tar and nicotine content, he said.
The tobacco industry reacted angrily to yesterday's announcement.
"There is no reason to think that black people are any less aware of the risks linked to smoking than anyone else," said Thomas Lauria, a spokesman for the Tobacco Institute.