Low-income black smokers light up to relieve stress

Low-income black smokers in New Orleans and Memphis say that smoking helps them deal with stress, according to a new study.
“So many things fill your mind and you go through so much, you need your cigarette to smoke to calm down and get things off your mind,” says one of the participants, quoted in an article about the study in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. From the Center for the Advancement of Health:Low-income black smokers light up to relieve stress

Low-income black smokers in New Orleans and Memphis say that smoking helps them deal with stress, according to a new study.

“So many things fill your mind and you go through so much, you need your cigarette to smoke to calm down and get things off your mind,” says one of the participants, quoted in an article about the study in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“In our study, cigarette use was defined as a ‘buffer’ for dealing with multiple demands, financial insecurity and daily hassles,” say Bettina M. Beech, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., of the University of Memphis, Department of Psychology and colleagues.

The researchers discussed smoking habits and attitudes with small focus groups of low-income, young adult blacks, looking for specific social and cultural “themes” associated with smoking among the groups.

Along with a tendency to cite stress relief as an incentive to smoke, many of the study participants say that lighting cigarettes for their parents was their first exposure to smoking. Participants also said that cigarettes were easy to buy when they were children and were sometimes given away as free samples in their neighborhoods.

Many focus group participants were skeptical about the usefulness of medical aids like nicotine patches, saying that willpower and prayer were more important strategies for quitting smoking successfully.

Participants say that black teens are less likely to smoke than white teens because black teens are more respectful of strict parenting, more religious, less likely to be influenced by peer pressure and less likely to have extra money to spend on cigarettes.

“At the age of 10 they [white children] are walking around with like $30, $40, $50 in their pocket, going to buy a packet of cigarettes and our children [black children] can’t do that,” says another study participant.

Several participants also talked about the links between marijuana use and cigarette smoking, with some saying that marijuana sensations were improved by cigarette smoking and others noting that black teens may not smoke cigarettes if they are already smoking marijuana.

Although black teens are less likely to smoke than white teens, this pattern changes in early adulthood, Beech and colleagues say. Smoking rates among black high school students, particularly young men, have increased 80 percent in the past decade, compared with a 28 percent increase among white students.

The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Health Behavior News Service: 202-387-2829 or http://www.hbns.org.
Interviews: Contact Bettina Beech at 901-678-4690 or [email protected]
American Journal of Health Promotion: Call 248- 682-0707 or visit http://www.healthpromotionjournal.com.

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