Francisco Cartujano, MD (he/him), is a research assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). He is also the assistant director of the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at Wilmot Cancer Institute, part of URMC. Dr. Cartujano received his medical degree from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico and completed his research fellowship at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He has been trained in participatory research to address tobacco-related disparities. Specifically, Dr. Cartujano has worked in the development and implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate mobile interventions for smoking cessation among Latinos. You can follow Dr. Cartujano on Twitter.
Latino people, the largest minority group in the United States according to the United States Census Bureau, are a diverse group of people differing by their country of origin, years living in the United States, socioeconomic and immigration status, language, and cultural values. As such, smoking is also a behavior that occurs differently among groups of Latino people. For instance, smoking rates are highest among Puerto Rican people (35% of men smoke and 32.6% of women) and Cuban people (31.3% of men and 21.9% of women), and Dominican people have the lowest rates of smoking (11% of men and 11.7% of women). Meanwhile, Latino people of other national backgrounds have smoking rates that fall between these groups, and smoking rates are typically higher among men compared to women. Despite these differences within the groups of Latino people, smoking rates are high and can lead to serious health problems.
Latino people experience many barriers that reduce their access to health care, including interventions to help them quit smoking. These barriers result in what are called “health disparities,” which describes differences in the health among different groups of people, including racial and ethnic minorities. Because tobacco use is proven to increase the risk of many different types of cancer, it is an important health issue to encourage Latino people to never smoke and, if they do smoke, to quit using tobacco.
Here, learn more about tobacco use among Latino people and what resources are available to help you quit smoking.
What tobacco-related health disparities exist among Latino people?
Compared to both Black and white people, Latino people are less likely to receive advice to quit smoking. They are also less likely to use medications and counseling to quit smoking. However, when provided with access, Latino people are interested in participating in programs and in using medications to stop smoking.
Furthermore, Latino people are not well represented in tobacco research. Only a handful of studies on quitting smoking have focused on the cultural and language needs of Latino smokers. This means that there are less evidence-based interventions that focus on the unique needs of Latino people when it comes to tobacco use. Ensuring more representation of Latino people in these studies is essential to developing and promoting effective ways to stop tobacco use in Latino people in the United States.
These tobacco-related disparities exist among Latino people because of a history of discrimination and systematic exclusion from the health care system. The resources that do exist to help people quit smoking are not sensitive to the unique needs of Latino people. Materials may not be available in Spanish. Or they may not be adapted to different educational levels. They may not be culturally appropriate. Some Latino people do not trust the health care system and government-funded programs because of concerns about deportation and other issues.
How does tobacco use impact the Latino community?
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death among Latino people. Simply encouraging Latino people to quit smoking or to never start smoking could help save lives. Sadly, many Latino smokers today are not told that tobacco use is dangerous to their health and that of their loved ones.
Quitting smoking offers many health benefits. It lowers the risk of several major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. Quitting smoking helps the greater community by reducing secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is when nonsmokers inhale the smoke from a nearby smoker. Secondhand smoke has also been connected to cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. When a Latino person quits smoking, they improve their own health and are also protecting their community from secondhand smoke.
What research is being done to reduce tobacco use among Latino people?
Decades of research have shown that the most effective way to quit smoking uses a combination of counseling and medications, such as nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges. However, Latino people face many barriers to health care, so we need more accessible, effective, and culturally relevant ways to help them quit smoking.
Some colleagues and I have developed Decídetexto, a mobile intervention specifically designed to help Latino people quit smoking, which we are studying in a clinical trial. Decídetexto is available in both English and Spanish and is the very first text messaging intervention that has been culturally and linguistically accommodated for Latino smokers. So far, users have been happy with this program, and it has helped Latino people quit smoking. We are currently studying this intervention in a randomized clinical trial to evaluate how effective Decídetexto is at helping Latino people quit smoking versus giving them printed smoking cessation materials and referring them to a telephone quitline, which is the current standard of care. Ultimately, we would like to make Decídetexto available to all Latinos at no cost.
What resources are available to help Latino people quit smoking?
Planning and support can help Latino people quit smoking for good. Calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Quitline (in Spanish: 1-855-DÉJELO-YA or 1-855-335-3569, or in English: 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669) can be the key to success. The Quitline provides free, confidential access to a highly trained quit coach over the phone and is available throughout the United States.
Another great resource is Smokefree.gov, which was created by the National Cancer Institute to help people quit smoking. Smokefree.gov offers quizzes, tips, plans, apps, text messaging programs, and other ways to get ready to quit smoking and be smoke-free for good. Smokefree.gov is also available in Spanish.
The author has no relationships relevant to this content to disclose.