Just published in the American Journal of Public Health, the research on migration-related changes in smoking habit also found that while the likelihood of starting or stopping smoking tobacco varies dramatically with migration from Mexico to the U.S., the number of cigs that smokers smoke each day remains not absolutely similar. Mexican Americans are more likely to start and to quit smoking than people in Mexico, but on an usual day, Mexican Americans who smoke tobacco consume only slightly more cigarettes than Mexicans who are smokers.

In contrast, the amount of cigarettes smoked per day by Mexican-American smokers is approximately half that smoked per day by non-Hispanic white smokers in the U.S.

Smoking tobacco among Mexican Americans remains a very important public health problem, in spite of the relatively low level of tobacco consumption per day.

“Everyone in the U.S. is smoking tobacco much less than in the past,” argued lead author Elisa Tong, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine who specializes in smoking-control investigation.

“But even light smoking is a risk factor for cardiovascular and pulmonary disease.” Tong adds, “Although U.S.-born Mexican Americans are smoking much more, they’re quitting more. Researches of this kind help us understand the cultural and psychological factors involved in quitting so that effective public health smoke-free programs can be developed to encourage even more smoking cessation.”

The study team, led by principal investigator Joshua Breslau, now a researcher at the RAND Corp. in Pittsburgh, Pa., includes researchers from both the U.S. and Mexico. “We have learned a great deal by investigating changes in physical health, mental health and health behavior associated with migration,” explained Breslau. “In this study, it was particularly valuable to observe a migrant population in both the originating and receiving countries.” Combining several population-based studies from both countries, the team examined differences in starting and quitting smoking and in tobacco consumption among every day smokers across a series of groups with raising contact with the U.S.

The groups included Mexicans with no familial connection to migration at one end of the spectrum through U.S.-born Mexican Americans at the other. The studies included several thousand participants on both sides of the border as part of a series of epidemiological psychology researches from 2001 to 2003.