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U of M expert: Smoking cessation programs should consider minority populations

Photo: Zaini Abdullah via Flickr

Thursday Nov. 21 marks the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a day active smokers are encouraged to use as a starting point for quitting. True, nationwide initiatives like this can be beneficial for participants, but a University of Minnesota researcher believes more attention is needed for minority populations.

Due to the type of cigarettes heavily favored by certain minority groups, Kola Okuyemi, M.D., director of the Program in Health Disparities Research, says their treatment programs need to be tailored separate from the majority population.

“80 percent of African-American smokers smoke menthol flavored cigarettes, an alarming rate when compared to only 20 percent of Caucasians,” said Okuyemi. “Therefore, we need to focus on menthol research and specific treatment options to help this population.”

Currently, menthol cigarettes make up 25 percent of the United States cigarette market, a number that is a cause for concern for Okuyemi.

“There’s evidence that shows menthol makes cigarettes more addictive,” Okuyemi said. “Our work also tells us that people who smoke menthol cigarettes have a harder time quitting for good.”

To address this issue, Okuyemi and his colleagues are conducting research on African-American smoking habits and treatment preferences.

“It’s the first study of its kind focusing on African-American menthol smokers,” he said. “We’re providing them with a few different treatment options and analyzing which ones work best. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet way to prevent smoking.”

Right now, the FDA is considering a ban on menthol cigarettes, a measure which would highly benefit both the African-American community and the rest of the United States.

“The U.S. public would be healthier without menthol cigarettes.”

Finally, Okuyemi pointed out that while the rate of overall smoking has dropped in Minnesota, the rate among Native Americans is actually rising, another population that could benefit from a culturally tailored smoking cessation program.

Read more the federal government’s investigation of menthol flavoring.

See a brief history of the modern cigarette on Health Talk.


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