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Young black smokers face obstacles to quitting

July 14, 2007 by  
Filed under Health, News

( An “alarmingly” high number of inner-city black young adults smoke and, for those trying to quit, several factors may conspire to thwart their efforts, research shows.

A key factor, researchers found, is the widespread belief among 18- to 24-year-old black smokers and nonsmokers that smoking cigarettes is a normal behavior that’s very common and “essentially unproblematic.”

The ease with which people can purchase single cigarettes, or “loosies” as they are known, is another factor. “This study found that the sale of single cigarettes was more pervasive than previously reported and that most of the sales occurred on the street,” according to the report in the American Journal of Public Health.

“This easy and affordable way to purchase cigarettes from street vendors and stores undermines tax policies, promotes smoking as a normative behavior and may contribute to high smoking rates in some inner-city communities,” write Baltimore-based researchers led by Frances A. Stillman of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In 1996, the US Food and Drug Administration tried to ban the sale of single cigarettes, but “current laws differ from state to state and enforcement is lax,” the authors report.

These barriers to smoking cessation in inner-city black youth emerged in focus groups conducted with 28 young adult black men and women living in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as in a written survey completed by 156 black young adults living in the same area.

Other influences fueling the high level of smoking and lack of interest in quitting among inner-city black young adults are industry-targeted advertising, marketing and promotional campaigns.

The Newport brand of cigarettes is heavily and successfully promoted in black communities, Stillman and colleagues report. Another favorite, they found, is the Black and Mild brand of mini-cigars, which are sold individually for less than $1. “This may contribute to their use by young adults with modest available funds,” the authors say.

This research, Stillman’s group concludes, shows that “smoking cessation efforts need to take into consideration environmental influences, such as the sale of single cigarettes, particularly in inner-city African American young adults.”

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