The first clinical trial to focus on light smokers shows that African Americans are motivated to quit more by completing health education than by using nicotine gum.
Jasjit S. Ahluwalia, M.D., M.P.H., professor and researcher with the University of Minnesota Medical School and Cancer Center, and executive director of the University's Office of Clinical Research, led the research team on this study. The findings are published in the June issue of the journal Addiction.
"Our results highlight the positive impact that directed health education and advice-oriented counseling has on helping African American light smokers quit," Ahluwalia said. "We hope our study provides impetus for more studies that assess other intervention methods that may be successfully used to improve quit rates among African American light smokers."
Researchers defined light smokers as people who smoke 10 or less cigarettes a day.
Ahluwalia noted that while the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased in the United States over the past few decades, the number of people who maintain a low level of cigarette use, or light smokers, is increasing. He said this is particularly evident among teens, college students, women, and ethnic minority groups.
"The phenomenon of light smoking is not entirely understood," Ahluwalia said. "For some, light smoking is a transitional state leading to heavier smoking or cessation. For others, light smoking is a pattern of low cigarette use that is maintained for years."
Approximately 50 percent of African American smokers are light smokers. By contrast, Ahluwalia notes that African Americans experience a disproportionate share of tobacco-related illnesses, including higher rate of death. African Americans tend to smoke mentholated, higher tar and nicotine cigarettes. They also have a slower rate of nicotine metabolism; higher levels, per cigarette smoked, of cotinine, a compound present in those exposed to tobacco; and, greater difficulty quitting smoking compared to other ethnic groups, which may be contributing factors to the higher smoking-related illness and death rate.