Black and Latino smokers more likely to quit than whites

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Older African Americans and Latinos have an edge over whites when it comes to being able to quit smoking, according to a study of nearly 3,000 smokers.

The findings show that the quit rate is about 20 percent and 50 percent higher for blacks and Latinos, respectively, compared with whites.

The size of the habit is a big factor in how easy quitting really is.

“While black youth have a lower tendency to smoke than white youth, this difference almost disappears by adulthood because smoking starts later in life for blacks than whites,” says Shervin Assari of the University of Michigan School of Public Health Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, and the psychiatry department. “The general belief is that black smokers are less likely to quit. Our study questions such a traditional assumption by showing that after age 50, blacks are more likely to quit.”

However, the size of the habit is a big factor in how easy quitting really is.

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“This was explained by lighter smoking, since blacks and Latinos are lighter smokers and lighter smoking translates to more successful quitting,” says first author Frank Bandiera, assistant professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health.

On average, whites in the study smoked 23 cigarettes per day, compared to 16 for Latinos and 13 for African-Americans.

For the study, published in the journal Tobacco Induced Disease, researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study 1992-2012, which has followed a nationally representative sample of adults born in the US between the years 1931 and 1941.

They gathered information on smoking at baseline and then every two years. At 10 years, the quit rate for Latinos changed significantly at 52 percent, compared with nearly 46 percent for whites. The quit rate for blacks did not outpace whites until 20 years out.

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“The higher quit rates in Latinos and blacks may explain why mortality rates are lower in Latinos than whites, and why the mortality rate gap between blacks and whites is getting closer,” Bandiera says.

Previous research has shown that blacks suffer from poorer health and die earlier than whites due to a number of health conditions and life circumstances.

“Health disparities researchers have traditionally conceptualized minority status as a proxy of higher adversity, risk and vulnerability. Being minority, however, has another side to it, which is resilience,” Assari says. “As this paper shows, when it comes to drugs and substances, for many outcomes, it is whites—not blacks—who are at higher risk and vulnerability.”

The results that show that lighter smokers fare better at quitting is promising for future public health cessation efforts, researchers say, as American smokers in general have steadily cut back on the number of cigarettes they use daily.

Source: University of Michigan