Editorial: COVID-19 and Tobacco Use in Minority Communities – Research is Lacking

Editorial: COVID-19 and Tobacco Use in Minority Communities – Research is Lacking

Tobacco-related diseases disproportionally impact minority communities, and the onset of COVID-19 has exacerbated these conditions. While globally there has been an abundance of literature published on the relationship between tobacco use and coronavirus on the population; there has been minimal study on the effects of tobacco use and COVID-19 in minorities, specifically.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2020 “nearly 13 of every 100 U.S. adults, aged 18 years or older smoked cigarettes. The report also states that 14 of every 100 non-Hispanic Black adults and eight of every 100 Hispanic adults smoked cigarettes.[1]

CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) revealed that 19 percent of non-Hispanic Black adults in Arkansas, reported smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke daily or some days. Statistics were not available for adult Hispanics/Latinos in Arkansas.[2]

It should be noted that Black adults only make up 15.7 percent of Arkansas’s population followed by Hispanic/Latino adults who represent 7.8 percent of the state’s population.[3]

As for COVID-19 morbidity numbers, more minorities died of complications from COVID-19 than non-minority populations. In April 2022, the CDC reported that in 66 percent of COVID-19 cases, non-Hispanic Black adults were 2.4 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, followed by Hispanics/Latinos with 2.3 times more likely to be hospitalized. Hispanics/Latino adults were 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic Black adults who were 1.7 times to die.[4]

Studies have shown that tobacco-related illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and coronary heart disease impair the lungs’ ability to fight the COVID-19 infection. Studies also found that pre-existing diseases in tobacco users exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms, making treatment more difficult, “resulting in rapid clinical deterioration.” 4

This information should signify an urgency that the correlation between tobacco use and COVID-19 in minorities must be further examined. The foundation has been set. These reports and data provide research partners in Arkansas with an opportunity to further inquiry into the effects of COVID-19 and smoking on minorities.

The Minority Research Center (MRC) on Tobacco and Addictions at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will accept applications beginning July 1, to study the effects of tobacco usage on minorities who have contracted COVID-19. Grants are available to investigators from Arkansas not-for-profit organizations, including but not limited to colleges, universities, hospitals, laboratories, research institutions, community-based organizations, voluntary health agencies, health maintenance organizations, and other tobacco control groups.

These awards will assist researchers in gathering preliminary data or demonstrating proof of principle for tobacco-related research with the potential for high impact among minority populations in Arkansas.

Contact Earnette Sullivan, MRC program manager, for more information by email at sullivane@uapb.edu or call 870.730.1137.

[1] “COVID-19 Hospitalization and Death by Race/Ethnicity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-raceethnicity.html.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. BRFSS Prevalence & Trends Data [online]. 2015. [accessed May 25, 2022]. URL: https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/brfssprevalence/.

[3] https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AR         

[4] Respiratory Medicine Journal, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rmed.2020.106233

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