When it comes to smoking, there is always “good news” and “bad news.”
The good news is that smoking rates have been steadily declining in the U.S. for decades. Bonus good news: Latino adults generally have lower rates of smoking than other racial/ethnic groups with the exception of Asian Americans.
Now, the bad news.
A study from the University of Colorado has determined that about 15% of all adults in the country – over 36 million – continue to smoke cigarettes.
Of that number, nearly 3 of 4 are plagued by one or more key social disadvantages: low income, no college education, no health insurance, or a disability.
According to the study’s findings, Americans with lower socioeconomic status “suffer from epidemic smoking rates.”
“In the last half-century, public health efforts helped cut the smoking rate by more than half, but we probably need to change our strategies for helping smokers quit,” said study author Arnold Levinson, associate professor of community and behavioral health with the University of Colorado Anschutz in an interview with Medline Plus. “The methods that worked for the upper half of society don’t seem to be working well for the other half.”
What does this mean for Latinos?
While smoking rates are relatively low for Latino adults, the same cannot be said for Latino youths. A study by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) found that Latino kids are nearly 67% more susceptible to smoking than white kids, and were most likely to be drawn to cigarettes around ages 12 and 16.
With many Latinos already living in low-income, high-crime, and high-poverty neighborhoods and with access to educational and healthcare options limited, they are “prime targets” for smoking campaigns.
“[The] nation’s public health system has a dual moral obligation toward smokers of low socioeconomic class,” Levinson said. “We must eliminate the disparity in smoking rates, and we must provide cessation-supporting services to the new majority of smokers.”
For those Latinos looking to quit smoking, it is a daunting task, but it is doable.
Some of the best resources are fellow Latinos, though. Those who have quit smoking already can serve as great role models.
You can read some of those stories here at Salud Today: