Wisconsin has highest smoking disparity between black and white residents in the nation

Recently published research shows progress is being made to help black residents quit smoking

MADISON (WKBT) – Black residents in Wisconsin are smokers at a rate of more than two-to-one compared to white residents, the largest smoking disparity in the nation. However, a new study shows progress has been made to reduce that disparity and the high health and economic burdens that go along with it.

13% of white Wisconsin residents smoke, compared to 30% of black Wisconsin residents, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The rate of smoking among black residents in Wisconsin is nearly twice the national average. A study published in JAMA showed that some progress has been made in the area of helping smokers quit.

According to the study of 500 African Americans, active varenicline treatments (such as Chantix) and culturally appropriate counseling produced a significantly higher quit rate than did placebo treatments and counseling.

“What’s especially exciting is that these treatments aren’t rare,” said Dr. Michael Fiore, co-author and director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. “They’re widely available. They’re covered by Medicaid and many insurance plans.”

Many of the participants in the study smoked relatively few cigarettes per day and the study showed that the varenicline treatment was effective with these individuals. Researchers said this is significant because this smoking pattern is becoming increasingly common. Also, on average, African Americans tend not to smoke as heavily as white individuals. Research showed clinicians are less likely to intervene with light smokers. Researchers hope this study may change that.

“This may play a role in why Black patients tend to have low use of medications we know can help them quit smoking,” noted co-author Dr. Jessica Burris from the University of Kentucky.

Researchers also added that the FDA’s plan to eliminate menthol flavored cigarettes and cigars has great potential for bolstering public health since 75% of African American adults smoke menthols, and 90% of Black children who start smoking do so with menthols. Meanwhile, just 25% of Whites who smoke use menthols.

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