A new government campaign is encouraging smokers to get their doctors involved in their efforts to quit, noting that even "brief advice" from a health provider "significantly increases" the odds of successfully kicking the habit.
More than 13 percent of South L.A.'s adult population smokes, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health. That's slightly more than the countywide rate, which as of November had sunk to its lowest level in at least 15 years.
The Talk With Your Doctor campaign, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is hoping to continue that trend of decline by encouraging smokers to enlist their doctors and other health providers as a means of support, emphasizing that it "more than doubles the odds" that smokers will successfully quit.
Dr. Tipu Khan, who practices family medicine at UMMA Community Clinic in South L.A., says the area's smoking rates are some of the highest he's seen in the areas he's practiced.
"We know very clearly from the evidence that the underserved population tends to be highly [overrepresented] when it comes to smoking," he said. That aligns with L.A. County's data, which found that those with the lowest incomes were the most likely to smoke.
"I think they are definitely driven to smoke with the stressors in their lives," said Khan of the disparity, noting that South L.A. is highly underserved. Another factor, he said, is the abundance of "predatory marketing" of tobacco products in settings like convenience stores, which for many folks in South L.A. double as grocery stores.
Khan said getting a doctor involved helps make smokers who want to quit feel as if they're not alone.
"I think it's the team aspect of approaching this – they're no longer on their own," he said. "We're just helping them connect to resources."
Because his patient population is largely low-income and underserved, "getting access to one-on-one counseling is difficult," said Khan. But he advises his patients to call 1-800-NO-BUTTS, which offers counseling over the phone, or to text IQUIT, which will send aspiring quitters encouragement and tips.
The CDC's ads began on Monday and will run through Sunday. The campaign, which has partnered with professional health organizations like the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, also encourages health providers to make it a point to routinely ask their patients whether they smoke.