Blacks, Latinos have easier time quitting cigarettes than whites

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 - Shervin Assari.jpg
Shervin Assari

Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Texas found that race has an impact on smoking patterns among cigarette users in the U.S., and who will be more successful in efforts to quit the addictive habit.

The study, published online in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases, analyzed nearly 3,000 smokers over the age of 50. Information on their smoking patterns was gathered at baseline and then at every two years.

The findings showed that black people and Latinos have an easier time quitting cigarettes, with a cessation rate of about 20 percent and 50 percent higher, respectively, a finding attributed to the fact that white people smoke more than other racial groups.

In the study, white participants smoked 23 cigarettes per day on average, compared to 16 for Latinos and 13 for blacks.

“Minority people have a higher chance of quitting because they start as lighter smokers,” said Shervin Assari, MD, a research investigator at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health in University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Department of Psychiatry, in an interview with Cardiovascular Business. “Smoking among minorities is more of a response to environmental adversities than whites, so the motivation behind it or the timing of development is different.”

While most minority smokers don’t begin smoking until their 20s, white smokers often begin in their late teens, a pattern that makes them more susceptible to developing a lifelong habit, Assari said.

“In general, substance use starts in college for whites. Blacks in college don’t use substances,” Assari said.

But that statistic may change in the future as policies raising the tobacco sale age to 21 are implemented. Hawaii and California both raised the age this year with several other cities doing so, like New York and Chicago. Without access, it’s likely that teen tobacco use will decrease, Assari said.

“That type of policy would have a higher impact on whites because it is whites who start at a younger age,” Assari said. “This is an example when one policy may have differential effects and have the highest efficacy for the majority group.”

Theodore R. Holford, PhD, a Susan Dwight Bliss professor of public health and biostatistics at Yale University’s School of Public Health, did similar research on this topic earlier this year. His findings correspond with Assari’s in that whites begin smoking earlier than black people but also quit sooner. His research, which only analyzed patterns among whites and blacks, also revealed that the difference in smoking habits leads to disparities in lung cancer screenings, particularly among blacks.

Holford said there wasn’t a clear answer as to why whites quit sooner than blacks, but levels of education and other socioeconomic factors could play a role in who quits smoking as an adult.

“People with more education tend to smoke less,” Holford said in an interview with Cardiovascular Business. “Also, people that are close to or below the poverty line tend to smoke more.”

Findings from both studies are meant to help formulate policies that target smokers at-risk for lung cancer and other related health problems.