by Adrián Martínez
Many of you have heard through school, the news, or your medical providers that smoking has the potential to cause or worsen many diseases, ranging from heart and lung disease to various forms of cancer. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate that smoking can significantly increase risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes, which are among the leading causes of death for Latino people (1). With this in mind, it is understandable why healthcare providers are encouraging their patients to quit smoking. Unfortunately, the Latino population has lower access to health insurance than white Americans, which means they have less access to healthcare providers and the treatments that may be offered to help quit smoking.
According to surveys from the United States Census Bureau, smoking rates vary among the Latino subpopulations. About one in five Puerto Ricans and Cubans admit to cigarette smoking, which is about twice the rate of Central and South Americans; among all groups, men are more likely to smoke daily than women (2). This can reflect more social acceptance of smoking in those groups with higher rates, which in itself can result in more difficulty for people in those groups to quit. Part of the process of quitting involves avoiding environments in which you might be more likely to smoke a cigarette. If you are surrounded by people who smoke, it is much harder to avoid the temptation of smoking. Surround yourself with people who can support you in your efforts to quit, and encourage your loved ones to quit alongside you.
What methods are there to quit smoking? Besides attempting to do so on your own, you have a few options from which to choose. Nicotine replacement therapy includes nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays. Other treatments include the medicines varenicline and bupropion, both of which reduce cravings for nicotine and have other helpful effects. All these medications come with their own side effects, which you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Do not be discouraged if you are unable to quit using one of the medications; quitting is a process that requires effort and persistence. If you are interested in quitting, make an appointment with your primary care provider or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) for guidance and support.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Leading Causes of Death, Prevalence of Diseases and Risk Factors, and Use of Health Services Among Hispanics in the United States—2009–2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2015;64(17):469–78.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disparities in Adult Cigarette Smoking—United States, 2002-2005 and 2010-2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2016;65(30).
Adrian Martinez is a Puerto Rican born in California and raised in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida. He graduated in 2014 from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Biology and is currently a fourth-year medical student attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is on the executive board of the school’s chapter of the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and will be pursuing a career in psychiatry.