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Keywords

Adjustment (Psychology); Affect; African Americans – Tobacco use; American Indian; Indians of North America – Tobacco use; Self-perception; Smoking; Stress (Psychology); Tobacco; Women – Tobacco use

Abstract

Research suggests that negative emotions and difficulty coping with stressful events might impede women’s ability to quit smoking. This study uses qualitative methods to explore interrelationships between smoking behavior and negative emotions among a sample of racial/ethnic minority female smokers with the aims of theory-building and hypothesis generation. Data were derived from a larger study involving sixteen focus groups with current and former smokers from ethnic minority communities. The present study consisted of three focus groups of female African American and American Indian smokers (N = 16). Data was analyzed following standard methods for in vivo coding of qualitative data. Consistent with prior research, participants reported using smoking as a tool to cope with stress and negative emotions. Deprivation from smoking was associated with negative states such as anger, irritability, and distress. However, continued smoking was also a source of negative emotion, as women felt shame, guilt and low self-esteem over their inability to quit, which was perceived by some as indicative of weakness. These negative self-perceptions are consistent with stigmatized views of smokers held by the public. Women also expressed feelings of defiance about their smoking despite pressure to quit and identified external factors which contributed to their inability to quit. The negative emotions, self-stigma and shame experienced by low income American Indian and African American women smokers may contribute to continued smoking and disrupt quit attempts. Additional research is needed in order to develop effective tobacco cessation interventions for this group.