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Where we stand: Invest in research on sub-populations

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Tobacco is not an equal opportunity destroyer. Those with lower education levels, lower income, minorities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, and those with mental illness smoke at higher rates than the general population, and experience higher rates of tobacco-related disease. Truth Initiative supports programs and measures that will help reduce tobacco use in these populations. Recognizing often we do not have enough information on these subpopulations to determine how best to serve them, we recently submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 science-based 10-year national objectives for all Americans. Our comments pointed the way toward increased data collection on LGBT populations, as well as disaggregating subpopulation data.

Older studies have delivered insights but are increasingly dated. And simply too little is known about tobacco initiation, use or cessation within these vulnerable populations.

For example, older studies have shown that Cuban men and women have the highest smoking rates among the Hispanic populations, while Dominicans have the lowest. We also know that U.S. born Hispanics smoke at lower rates than those born abroad, and that the opposite is true for Asian Americans. However, we need current data to build the knowledge base on these populations.

We do know that the LGB population smokes at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts – in 2013, 26.6% of LGB adults were current smokers compared to 17.6% of heterosexual adults. Significantly less is known about the transgender population. And we don’t know much beyond prevalence rates, such as the root causes of tobacco use in the LGBT population, what motivates them to quit or which cessation methods are most successful.

Improving data collection for those populations most impacted by tobacco use can help groups like Truth Initiative to develop targeted, language and culturally appropriate messages and programs to prevent tobacco use and promote cessation in these at-risk populations.

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