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Smoking Keeps Its Grip on Urban Poor
Date:10/16/2009

Misconceptions, marketing are boosting rates to double the national average, researchers say

FRIDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A full 42 percent of people in Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods smoke -- more than twice the national U.S. average -- sacrificing $9 on a pack of cigarettes even while most of the households reported earning less than $15,000 a year.

Even more troubling is the fact that a large number of these low-income smokers hold beliefs that make them less likely to quit, according to ongoing research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Over the past 40 years or so, the overall smoking rate in the United States has decreased to about 20 percent, but those gains have taken place largely among people with resources, namely money and education, said Bruce Christiansen, an associate scientist with the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention in Madison, who is one of the researchers on what's known as the "ZIP Code" project.

"With public health, we got 80 percent of the people who were going to quit smoking to quit smoking. That's great, but the next 20 percent is going to be tough," added Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans. "Smoking tends to be a disease of poverty and lack of education. Thirty years ago, 50 percent of the population smoked and now we're down to roughly 25 percent. What we have left is a very select group of people."

That select group includes people with mental health issues, which, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), smoke 44 percent of all cigarettes.

Not only are these groups often specifically targeted by Big Tobacco, they also tend to reside in areas without extensive health care systems and don't have insurance, Christiansen said.

This study, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
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