Smoking rates are very high among Black men. An American Lung Association report reveals that 20.9% of African-American men use cigarettes, the highest among other ethnic groups. This poses several health concerns, as smoking makes them vulnerable to diseases and prevents them from achieving a healthier lifestyle.
Yet that’s not the only reason smoking stands in the way of achieving better health. Here are more reasons why Black men should quit smoking and how they can start:
Increased smoking risks for Black Men
Cigarette use causes inflammation, disrupts the lining of the blood vessels, and results in oxygen level imbalance. As a result, arteries can narrow through plaque deposits and potentially cause coronary heart disease.
A Harvard University discussion adds that smoking doubles heart risk among African-Americans. It cites findings from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), a Mississippi- based cohort study evaluating cardiovascular, renal, and respiratory conditions in the Black community. The study noted that 12% of African Americans who identify as current smokers have up to more than twice the risk of CHD than non-smokers. They also displayed more plaque buildup in the arteries, which in itself is a sign of future CHD.
Many Black men remain undiagnosed with lung problems due to bias in software. A study from the JAMA Network Open discloses that around 40% of Black male patients should’ve been diagnosed with breathing issues if no race-based assumptions were built into diagnostic software.
Doctors use computer software to get a score and report a patient’s breathing abilities via a spirometer, assisting them in diagnosing asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and other lung conditions. Unfortunately, software algorithms adjust the threshold for Black patients because of the centuries-long belief that they have lower risks for certain health issues. Given this, you may continue to live unaware you have a lung condition that’s worsened by smoking.
The risk of stroke
Finally, African-Americans are 50% more likely to have a stroke than their white counterparts. The toxic chemicals in cigarettes can double one’s risk of a stroke since these damage blood vessels, increase blood pressure, and reduce blood oxygen levels.
How you can quit smoking
Quit cigarettes gradually
Consider using tobacco-free nicotine products to ease yourself into quitting. That way, you can manage withdrawal symptoms instead of quitting cold turkey and risking relapse.
One of the most popular options in the US is the nicotine pouch, and they come in many flavors, including different menthol options. This is important because menthol cigarettes are commonly marketed toward African-Americans at a much higher rate than white smokers. You can buy ZYN nicotine pouches at Prilla, and they have become extremely popular because they come in wintergreen, spearmint, cool mint, and peppermint flavors alongside non-traditional coffee and cinnamon options. The pouches from ZYN are popular across the US because of their all-white interior and exterior that also prevent teeth stains. You can also try nicotine inhalers. These can stave cravings by replicating the motions of using cigarettes. The nicotine inhaler from Nicotrol has inactive menthol ingredients that also make it reminiscent of menthol cigarettes.
Change your mindset
If you usually smoke as a response to emotions like stress or anxiety, changing your mindset can be the key to kicking the habit. After all, mental blocks can hold you back from effectively quitting smoking.
For this, you can try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) if you want to get professional assistance. Here, a psychologist will help you identify smoking triggers and assist you in developing alternative behaviors that don’t involve cigarettes. CBT is also accessible: local health centers and hospitals often have CBT services.
Form a support system
Getting support from loved ones, professionals, and people with similar experiences can help you stay motivated on your quitting journey. Our post “5 Amazing Tips for Creating a Healthier Lifestyle” emphasizes that support can ensure you keep heading in the right direction and strengthen your resolve to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
If you want to bolster your support system even further, the National Cancer Institute has a program called “A Self-Help Intervention for African American Smokers” you can join. Here, you can get tailored quitting strategies and telephone counseling for additional support if you need it.
Smoking is one thing you’ll want to focus on as a Black man aiming for a healthier lifestyle. Although challenging, you can use the above tips to do as much as you can to reach your goals.