BY APARNA NATHAN
NEW HAVEN, CT - Cigarette smoking is on the decline in New Haven, according to new community-level data.
Results from a 2015 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey — of 16,219 randomly-selected Connecticut adults age 18 and over throughout Connecticut — show fewer adults are smoking now than three years ago. But new survey questions about e-cigarette use reveal that many young adults have been experimenting with these new technologies, while older adults who use them demonstrate more consistent use.
Eighteen percent of adults in New Haven report that they are current cigarette smokers, including 11 percent who report daily smoking. Comparable data from the 2012 iteration of the survey showed 23 percent of New Haven adults smoked cigarettes, with 16 percent smoking daily.
Taking a broader look at the state as a whole, the survey found that the smoking rate in Connecticut is 15 percent, slightly lower than the rate in New Haven.
Although the city saw an overall decrease in smoking rates of five percentage points since 2012, smoking continued to be more common among low-income populations, among unemployed adults, and among adults living within neighborhoods with high poverty rates. Nearly three times as many individuals with household incomes below $30,000 smoked than did their peers with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000.
Additionally, preliminary neighborhood-level data from DataHaven suggest that 35% of adults living in the city’s designated “Promise Zone” neighborhoods – areas such as the Hill, Newhallville, and Fair Haven, where unemployment and family poverty rates continue to be about 3-4 times higher than the statewide average – are current smokers, versus 11% of adults living in the remainder of the city.
This is in line with research that shows a relationship between smoking and socioeconomic status, said Yale professor of psychiatry Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D., specifically due to increased exposure to tobacco marketing and reduced support for quitting.
Smoking cessation attempts were relatively constant across populations in New Haven as well. In 2015, 61 percent of New Haven adults who regularly smoke reported at least one sustained 24-hour attempt to quit. Since 2012, there has been an increase in the frequency of attempts to quit for men and adults between 35 and 54 years of age.
The recent rise of new electronic smoking alternatives may be influencing smoking habits in New Haven.
Twenty percent of New Haven adults reported trying vape pens or e-cigarettes at least once, in comparison to the 16 percent across Connecticut who reported the same. The products seem to have found their niche among young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 — within this demographic, one third of young adults in New Haven had tried electronic smoking products.
According to Krishnan-Sarin, this is not a surprising finding. She has found similar results in her research on e-cigarette use among adolescents and young adults. These populations use e-cigarettes at a higher rate, she said.
“It seems to resonate more with them,” said Krishnan-Sarin. “It’s a technological product at this point, like their iPhones. They can charge it, or play around with the flavors.”
While young adults seem to be more inclined to try out e-cigarettes, older populations may be using them more consistently. Of the 33 percent of adults between the ages of 18-34 who had tried e-cigarettes, 52 percent had used them within the past month. However, only 15 percent of those who had tried e-cigarettes were heavy users of the products, defined as those who had used the products for more than 14 days within the past month.
The majority of 18-34 year olds who had used e-cigarettes within the past month reported that they had used them for fewer than seven days. In comparison, of the 12 percent of those between 35-54 years of age who had ever tried the products, 60 percent were current users and 42 percent were heavy users.
The differences between age groups’ use of e-cigarettes may stem from the reason for trying the products, Krishnan-Sarin said. She noted that the original intention for e-cigarettes was to serve as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, and studies have sought to determine whether e-cigarettes and related products can serve as effective devices to aid in quitting smoking. Research on e-cigarettes from the Centers for Disease Control has shown that nationally, cigarette smokers who have tried to quit in the past year were more likely to use e-cigarettes than smokers who had never tried to quit.
Additional results can be found on the DataHaven website.
Aparna Nathan is Research Intern at DataHaven, a formal partner of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership with a 25-year history of public service to Greater New Haven and Connecticut. DataHaven’s mission is to improve quality of life by collecting, sharing and interpreting public data for effective decision making. Note: This article was originally posted in the New Haven Independent, at http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/e-cigs_on_th....