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Tobacco Smoking In US Hits Record Low But Results Vary Across Neighborhoods

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While cigarette smoking across the United States is at an all-time low, researchers found that people in poor communities continue to suffer the health consequences associated with tobacco products.

According to a new study, people who live in communities where the smoking rates remain high are more likely to be poor, nonwhite, and have a chronic heart or lung disease.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Network.

Smoking Continues To Soar In Poor Communities

Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the use of tobacco products across the country continued to experience a steady decline. The federal public health agency conducted a survey and found that only 14 percent of American adults consumed a tobacco product in 2017 — the lowest since the government started collecting data on smoking. 

However, not everyone is making the healthier choice to quit smoking. The researchers, who analyzed the health data from the 500 largest cities in the United States, found a disparity in poor and nonwhite neighborhoods. 

"The degree of inequity was surprising," stated Eric Leas, a postdoctoral scholar from the Stanford Prevention Reseach Center who led the study. 

Along with the health data, the researchers looked at the socioeconomic factors of each neighborhood, including the income and educational level of the population. In addition, the researchers trawled through a private business database to find out how many tobacco retailers in a census tract, an area that spans several city blocks and comprises an entire community. 

They found that smoking is more popular in certain census tracts than others. In particular, neighborhoods, where people make less money, are more likely to have a high smoking rate. Communities populated by African-Americans and Latinos are also more likely to have high smoking rates. 

The study also highlights how neighborhoods that have high rates of smoking have more tobacco retailers. 

Addressing The Inequality In Smoking Rates Across Communities

As part of the study, the researchers also provided a few suggestions on how to further encourage the decline of smoking, even among those in poorer communities. Regulations such as "limiting the quantity, location, and type of tobacco retailers" in one census tract could lead to a reduction of tobacco consumption. 

They also stated that raising taxes on cigarettes could bar some low-income people from spending their hard-earned income on tobacco products

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