Despite clear warnings about the dangers of smoking, nearly 20% of adults continue to smoke. Smoking cessation programs focus on decreasing cravings, changing behaviors, and changing beliefs about smoking through education, support groups, and other approaches. Some of the factors that have been explored in relation to smoking are socioeconomic status, racial diversity, and gender.
To get a closer look at how these factors affect smoking cessation and smoking behavior, Diana W. Steward, PhD, of the Department of Health Disparities Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, recently led a study involving 402 racially diverse individuals from low socioeconomic environments. Stewart looked at health literacy, addiction to nicotine, perception of risk, self-efficacy, cessation expectations, and motivation to quit smoking.
She found that the participants with low health education and literacy had higher levels of dependence on nicotine and had fewer negative beliefs about smoking. In other words, the less they knew about the risks, the less they thought smoking could be potentially harmful. Further, Stewart also found that these associations persisted despite any variances in race or socioeconomic levels.
In sum, these findings provide evidence of a link between health literacy and smoking. Additionally, they clearly demonstrate that people who are not well educated in the risks related to smoking may not fully believe these risks to be real. This perception increases their smoking and nicotine dependency and contributes to higher rates of smoking-related illnesses.
Stewart hopes that the results of this study shed new light on the smoking cessation challenges facing racially diverse low socioeconomic individuals. She said, “Research is needed to investigate potential mechanisms underlying this relationship.” Stewart added that approaches that increase education accessibility about smoking and the dangers of smoking could help to motivate more smoking cessation efforts in this segment of the population and those most at risk.
Stewart, Diana W., PhD, et al. (2013). Associations between health literacy and established predictors of smoking cessation. American Journal of Public Health 103.7 (2013): E43-9. ProQuest. Web.
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