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Racial, Ethnic Disparities Found in Anti-Smoking Measures Identified by OSU Researcher

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A professor at Oregon State University released a report last month that compared cigarette usage among racial and ethnic groups. Researchers found disparities in the effectiveness of anti-smoking measures.

According to the study published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal, the number of cigarettes consumed per day dropped roughly 30% for all age groups between 1992 and 2019. But an OSU researcher is concerned tobacco control efforts have mainly helped white smokers.


Based on results on various racial groups in the U.S., researchers looked at the change over time in how many cigarettes smokers said they smoked each day and how many days they smoked. The study also focused on specific results in California — a state where cigarette use across all groups has declined more sharply than the U.S. average. 


Kari-Lyn Sakuma — lead author on the study and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences — said tobacco companies have specifically marketed their products in low-income neighborhoods and areas with high concentrations of Black and Hispanic/Latino community members.


“We can see dramatic decreases among white populations,” said Sakuma. “But when you start looking at racial and ethnic groups, and examining more closely the different cigarette use behaviors, it gives us clues as to where the disparities exist and where we can do better to target our public health efforts.”


Since lower income neighborhoods may have fewer resources to combat tobacco advertising, those communities may be more exposed to that type of marketing. 


“In other communities, there’s other things that they need to fight for,” said Sakuma. “While one community may have the task force and resources to create policies to reduce advertising around schools, other folks in lower-income areas are fighting for their schools to remain open,” Sakuma said. “It’s a difference in ability to address these issues.”


Sakuma hopes policy makers will prioritize public health messaging and outreach for racial and ethnic groups.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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