A new study is reporting that although Black and Hispanic Americans are less likely to smoke cigarettes than their white counterparts, once they’ve started, they’re actually more likely to stay hooked.
According to Philly.com, national data compiled by the University of California San Francisco’s Smoking Cessation Leader Center shows that Black and Latino smokers only successfully quit the addiction about half as often as white smokers.
Experts say this drastic disparity is due to several factors.
Stella Bialous, an associate professor of social behavioral sciences at the University of California, San Francisco believes that people of color, particularly those with low income and education levels, are more likely to work or live in places without smoke-free laws. So being around others who can smoke without restriction makes giving up the habit more difficult.
According to David Williams, a public-health professor at Harvard University who studies racial health disparities, the heightened levels of stress these communities are exposed to also make them more likely to seek the relief of nicotine.
In response to these statistics, the federal Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has awarded $11 million to a team of researchers, led by the University of Pennsylvania.
In the study, 3,200 smokers who are black, Hispanic, live in a rural area, or have a low income or education level — groups for whom data show smoking cessation is most challenging — will be recruited during lung cancer screenings at the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, Geisinger Health System in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, and Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.
Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four interventions to help them quit smoking.
The first group will receive the standard approach: Clinicians will ask patients to quit, and refer them to resources such as hotlines and support groups. The second group will receive the standard approach with the addition of free access to nicotine patches, gum, and other FDA-approved drugs. Group three will be referred to support resources, and receive free nicotine-replacement aids and a mobile health app that will text participants personalized reminders of what they will gain by quitting.
The fourth and final group will receive the most support, with access to all the aforementioned services and the promise of a $600 reward for successfully quitting. Research has shown financial incentives are a very effective strategy to help people quit. Though this approach can be costly on the front end, supporters say it saves money in the long term by decreasing the likelihood that patients will develop more serious ailments such as lung cancer or heart disease.
Although giving Black and Hispanic communities an incentive to quit is key, research has revealed that people of lower income are also more likely to live in neighborhoods with high rates of tobacco retailers. And the presence of those retailers in those communities is no coincidence.
“While smoking has come down in the general population, the tobacco industry has been focusing more and more on holding onto people with less education and lower income,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
The tobacco industry’s efforts to keep minorities addicted have included handing out cigarettes in housing projects, giving tobacco coupons with food stamps, and fighting attempts at regulation.
Misinformation telling consumers that E-cigarettes are good quitting aids, has also worked against their best interests even though data has proven that’s not the case.
“It’s important to understand how we can eliminate the disparity in quitting, just as we try to eliminate the disparity in starting,” said Bialous.