The "Must-Have" Case for Tobacco Cessation Services in African American Communities
WRITTEN BY DR. KAREN BEARD
Medical anthropologist Merrill Singer coined the term syndemic in the 1990s to draw attention to the complex relationships between diseases and the social, economic, and cultural factors contributing to their spread and impact. Syndemic is particularly relevant in the context of Covid in African American communities because tobacco use in African American communities combined with chronic conditions, substance abuse, and mental health disorders result in significant tobacco-related death and disability. And yet, tobacco cessation services are treated as a “nice to have” instead of a “must-have.” Insurance coverage for tobacco cessation counseling is not a priority, provider reimbursement rates are low and cessation services are difficult to access.
What if culturally appropriate tobacco cessation services were as common in African American communities as tobacco retailers? What if eliminating second and third-hand smoke was a priority for everyone? What if nonsmokers were Upstanders instead of Bystanders in this fight to rid our African immigrant and African American communities of toxic nicotine products?
The Breaking Free from Nicotine in South LA cessation capacity building project’s mission is to increase access to culturally appropriate tobacco cessation services by conducting community briefings to share, educate, and bring awareness to the devastating tobacco use syndemic, the tobacco industry tactics and increase the number of traditional and nontraditional community partners aware of culturally appropriate tobacco cessation services.
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