- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:56
- Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Even though just about everyone knows smoking is bad for one’s health, many Americans, including 21.3 percent of all adult black Americans, smoke.
According to data from Legacy, a national health policy foundation, in 2000 just 37 percent of all black Americans who ever smoked have managed to quit, the lowest rate among all racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.
Each year, Legacy reported, three quarters of black smokers say they want to quit; 60 percent try but only 3 percent succeed in quitting.
Based on 1995 research, tobacco-related disease accounted for 45,000 African-American deaths per year.
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of heart disease, cancers such as lung, trachea or bronchus and stroke, all diseases that are prevalent among African-Americans, according to Legacy.
About the only good news from Legacy’s survey is that African-American youth are more likely to start smoking later than white youth, with an estimated 40 percent of black Americans who have ever smoked starting between the ages of 18 and 21, compared to middle school and high school for other youths.
In middle school, the survey said, about 5 percent of black youth smoke cigarettes in middle school, compared to 4.3 percent for white kids. Among high school students, 7.4 percent of black students smoke compared to 19 percent of white pupils.
What really harms black smokers, though, is their preference for menthol cigarettes.
Two years ago, BlackAmericaWeb.com reported that the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network reported that menthol cigarettes typically have more tar and nicotine than non-mentholated cigarettes and mask the harshness of tobacco – meaning smokers smoke more, thus inhaling more toxins.
There also was research that suggested menthol cigarettes were harder to quit and that the tobacco industry used menthol to create “starter” cigarettes to appeal to young, first-time smokers.
Nearly 80 percent of African-Americans who smoke use menthol.
According to Legacy, Newport, an almost exclusively menthol brand, is the most popular cigarette brand among black youth, with 60 percent of established black smokers in middle school and nearly 79 percent of black high school smokers smoking Newport.
In addition, Legacy reported, the use of little cigars, or cigarillos, some flavored or mentholated, “is a rising problem for at risk African-American youth. In addition, many youth incorrectly believe that little cigars are less addictive and less harmful than cigarettes.”
Despite some variation in the findings across studies of cessation among menthol smokers the weight of the scientific evidence shows that adult menthol smokers are less likely than non-menthol smokers to successfully quit smoking despite increased quit intentions and quit attempts.
And the tobacco industry, in its ongoing search to grow its customer base, has historically targeted the black community – especially in the use of menthol cigarette advertising.
Since the 1960’s, according to Legacy, the tobacco industry has labeled the African-American population as a strategically important market, one whose search for recognition and empowerment made them a target for existing and new brands specifically marketed to help African-Americans build their own identity.
Basically, the desire to appear cool, hip and in control of one’s destiny, especially among a group that has been the victim of efforts – institutional and legal – over several generations could be manipulated to give one the feeling of having achieved that status through smoking.
The tobacco industry forged alliances with community leaders and black organizations and sponsorships of positive programs to use black voices to defend pro-tobacco policy and oppose tobacco control laws.
People interested in quitting, can visit www.BecomeAnEX.org which offers a free online smoking cessation plan created by Legacy that provides action-oriented information on how to quit successfully using proven methods. The program was created with input from current and former smokers along with tobacco treatment experts at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.
Phone help can also be found at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Is it safe for me to use nicotine replacement medicines to help me quit smoking?
Yes. Smoking is more than just a series of “bad habits." It's a physical addiction. Medicine can improve your chances for success when quitting. In fact, it can double your chances of stopping smoking. Watch this online video to learn more about different nicotine replacement medicines: http://www.becomeanex.org/nicotine-addiction_choosing-a-medication.php
What about using smokeless tobacco products to help me quit smoking?
Smokeless tobacco is not a nicotine replacement therapy. It is still tobacco and can be just as addicting as cigarettes. They are not an effective quitting method. In many instances they can make you more addicted. Instead, talk to your doctor and decide which medications are best for you. Then make a plan and start to re-learn life without tobacco. You can get a free plan online at BecomeAnEX.org and it can be used for any type of tobacco addiction.
Which medicine should I choose to help me quit smoking?
Be sure to ask your doctor which medicine is best for you. You can download and print this list of different types of medications and take it with you: http://www.becomeanex.org/docs/NRT_english.pdf
How do I keep from gaining weight when I quit smoking?
People who’ve quit smoking have told us that their brains sometimes confused nicotine cravings with a feeling of hunger, so they snacked a lot at first. But don't let that be the reason you don't quit. If you're concerned about gaining weight when you stop smoking, talk to your doctor. Eating right and exercising can help you make sure that any weight gain is minimal. Here are some tips:
- Drink tons of water to keep you feeling full.
- Snack on as many fruits and veggies as you want.
- If you want something crunchy, reach for baby carrots, an apple, low-fat popcorn or crackers. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Keep your mouth busy by chewing sugar-free gum.
- Keep your hands busy with something besides food.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s a major smoking trigger, and many drinks are loaded with calories.
-Check to see if your local grocery store offers low-calorie deserts.
I always seem to get depressed when I quit smoking. Is there something to help me so I can quit?
Often times smokers deal with stress by smoking. Once you've quit you need to think of other things to do besides reach for a cigarette. Everyone is different but here are a few examples of things that you can do to help ease stress without smoking. But, if you are depressed when you stop smoking, be sure to make an appointment with a doctor who can help.
- Spend time with positive, supportive people. They can turn around your whole outlook.
- Drink less caffeine. Once you quit smoking, the effects of caffeine can increase, potentially making you feel nervous or cranky.
- Exercise or take up a hobby. Walk the dog, run, do things with your hands — play cards, go bowling, paint or knit — anything helps.
- Get enough sleep. If you’re feeling tired throughout your day, it can make minor little annoyances seem like major issues.
- Treat yourself to something relaxing. Get a massage or pedicure. Maybe go fishing with your friends. Doing something that relaxes you can work miracles.
What if I continue to smoke? Are there programs in the community that can help me?
Quitters have told us that there are three big triggers that could cause a slip or relapse.
1. dealing with stress
2. being around smokers
3. drinking alcohol
If you don’t want to slip, stay away from slippery places. But know that there is no shame in slips or relapses – quitting smoking is hard and for most smokers they make 8-11 quit attempts before they succeed. When you need some extra help quitting here are a few great resources:
- Download a free quit plan and join an online group at BecomeAnEX.org.
-Get a quit coach. It's free. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Services are available in English and Spanish.
-Talk to others who are trying to quit.
-Quit with a friend. Going through all of this with a friend can help. If you feel like giving up, they might help you keep going. But remember, you are quitting for you, not your friend.
- Print this booklet: http://www.becomeanex.org/docs/becomeanEXbook.pdf
Where can I get more information that I can keep with me while I quit?
There are great resources available at BecomeAnEX.org that you can download and have available at any moment. The site is also accessible on your mobile phone.