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Smoking studies examine quitting rates in African Americans

No one said quitting would be easy, but it may be more difficult for African Americans than for Caucasians, according to research at the University of Minnesota.

In a study led by Kolawole Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H., African American smokers showed greater brain responses to smoking cues, such as images of individuals smoking, than did Caucasian smokers.

Researchers measured increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and reward, which may explain why African American smokers are less successful than Caucasians at quitting.

“Cigarette craving is an important challenge that smokers face when trying to quit smoking, and those with more intense cravings are more likely to relapse back to smoking,” says Okuyemi, director of the Medical School’s Program on Health Disparities Research.

The study was published in the June issue of the journal Addiction Biology.

In a separate study of African American light smokers (those smoking 10 or fewer cigarettes a day), researchers found that health education was more effective than nicotine gum in helping subjects quit.

Jasjit Ahluwalia, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of the University’s Office of Clinical Research, led the study, which was published in the June issue of the journal Addiction.

“Our results highlight the positive impact that directed health education and advice-oriented counseling has on helping African American light smokers quit,” Ahluwalia says. “We hope our study provides impetus for more studies that assess other intervention methods that may be successfully used to improve quit rates among African American smokers.”

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