Tobacco & Nicotine Products
STRESSFUL LIVING CONDITIONS AND SMOKING AMONG AFRICAN AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENTS: RESULTS FROM FOCUS GROUPS
(School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral & Community Health Faculty)
BACKGROUND: There is a limited availability of published data on the stress caused by certain ecological variables – e.g., isolated living conditions and household-level factors – and its influence on continual cigarette smoking experienced by African American public housing residents. METHODS: This study used a qualitative approach with the goal of identifying the psychosocial, neighborhood and social context factors associated with cigarette smoking. Nine focus groups were conducted with African American smokers (n=62) from four multiunit public housing communities in Pittsburgh, PA. Each focus group was audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Both authors independently read each transcript, identified emerging themes and assigned first-level codes, which were clustered into categories. Agreement of the coding was assessed and discrepancies were resolved by consensus. RESULTS: The authors identified two prevailing themes related to neighborhood factors and smoking: (1) environmental causes of stress and (2) intrapersonal stressors experienced by the residents. The first theme, environmental causes of stress, had four subthemes: the isolated geography of public housing - “The buses don’t even come up here anymore!”, the influx of “smoke shops” with custom blend tobacco within close proximity, poor housing conditions, and neighborhood safety issues. The second theme, intrapersonal stressors experienced by the residents, had two subthemes: scarce-to-nonexistent employment opportunities that lead to perpetual financial worry and the daily experiences of boredom - “There’s nothing for us to do here at [name of public housing community]; so we smoke!” CONCLUSIONS: Smoking was considered as the predominant way of coping with environmental and intrapersonal stressors among the residents. The two themes that emerged were especially noteworthy because they were expressed primarily by the female residents. Additional research is needed to explore the association between ecological and socio-cultural stressors and their impact on continual cigarette smoking by African American public housing residents, in general and by the female residents, in particular.