Project targets Hispanics

By Cara Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Hispanics may find it easier to "Just Say No" to smoking if a UA research project using nicotine patches is successful.

The project is the first time in Arizona that Hispanics have been specifically targeted for a nicotine patch study.

Scott Leischow, assistant professor of family and community medicine, said the study will allow better treatment for Hispanics who want to stop smoking.

"The main focus is what we can do to help them quit," Leischow said, and "how to encourage them to make the decision to help them quit smoking."

He said while the percentage of Hispanic smokers is not as high as that of other groups, there has been an increase in the number of younger Hispanics taking up smoking.

"If you look at the whole population, Hispanics smoke at a much lower rate. But the younger Hispanics are trying to fit in and become acculturated to our society," Leischow said.

He said the study was exploratory so that if they do start the habit, there will be ways to help them quit.

"We are trying to counteract the advertising," Leischow said.

Leischow also hopes the research will help to address the needs of the Hispanic community.

He said language has been a focus in past studies.

"Many Hispanics feel more comfortable talking to people in their native language," he said. "With staff that speak either language, we can individualize the treatment."

In 1992, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found the prevalence of smoking among Arizona adults to be 19.2 percent.

Prevalance was highest among African Americans with 23.1 percent. Caucasians followed with 20.9 percent, and Hispanics accounted for 19.8 percent.

Participants in the study will either wear a 21-milligram nicotine patch or a same-size placebo for the first six weeks. Neither the participants nor the doctors know who has the placebo and who has the actual nicotine patch.

During the ten-week study, participants will report any withdrawal symptoms or side-effects to the medication. The reports will then be used to gauge the effectiveness of the patch.

"The most consistent and effective method to quit smoking is a combination of the nicotine patch and behavioral treatment," Leischow said.

He said the nicotine patch combined with behavioral treatment helps 25 to 30 percent of subjects quit smoking and stay quit. If either is used separately there is a 10 to 15 percent success rate.

While the percentages seem low, Leischow said it is a big improvement compared to trying to quit "cold turkey" which only accounts for five percent of smokers.

"If they are motivated, it will increase their chances to stay quit," he said.

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