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Wanting to Exhale: Black Women Struggle to Stop Smoking

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
Dear Dr. Levister: I am a Black female age 36, I’ve tried to quit smoking but the stress of my recent divorce I fell off the wagon. I’m serious about quitting. I’ve tried the nicotine patch, hypnosis and cold turkey. Nothing works. What should I do? Frustrated

Dear Frustrated: It’s time to see your doctor or health care provider.  Chances are you won’t quit without medical help. Whether you crave cigarettes when you’re stressed out, bored, after eating, or just light up with the girls, whether you are a two-pack-a-day or social smoker, it’s easy to start, hard to quit. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 70 percent of current smokers wanted to quit and 41 percent had tried the preceding year. African-Americans found it hardest to kick the habit of all racial groups, all the more reason that we should never begin.

You are not alone in your struggle to stop smoking. While African-American girls and young women smoke less than all other racial and ethnic groups (9.5 percent prevalence) this percentage increases dramatically at around age 25 and over. Once addicted, according to the CDC the 74.9 percent of Black women smokers who would like to quit say they don’t have access to effective and culturally relevant smoking cessation resources, which can be limited, too costly or nonexistent.

Like you, most new smokers don’t see addiction coming. The wake-me-up, pick-me-up, after dinner, stress relief smokes turn into must-have coping strategies, helping them to get through life’s daily dramas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services understands this behavioral and physical addiction connection. As a result it recommends that both “social” and “chain” smokers should be treated aggressively with the help of a doctor, or certified smoking cessation specialist. Free clinics are available through your local Social-Services agency.

Join a support group of Black women, friends or family members who want to quit.

A popular, program among Black women is “Not in Mama’s Kitchen” funded by California’s African-American Tobacco Education Network. This campaign uses the power of respect, family, church and food to help Black women quit smoking. Visit www.BlackWomensHealth.Org.  Click on: smoking-cessation.

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