Most African Americans start smoking cigarettes in their 20s compared to whites who start smoking in their teens, but smoking decreases among whites in their 20s and increases among blacks, according to a new study published by Penn State University.
The study “Changes in Gender and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Rates of Cigarette Use, Regular, Heavy, Episodic Drinking, and Marijuana Use: Ages 14 to 32” was published in Addictive Behaviors.
A survey of 18.5 year olds reported that 44 % of whites smoked compared to 18% of African Americans. “But at 29 years old, the numbers dropped to 40% for whites while the number African Americans who smoked rose to 31%,” according to the study.
“I think that the most important point is that there are big age-related differences in substance use by gender and race/ethnicity,” says Rebecca J. Evans-Polce, a postdoctoral fellow in the Bennett Pierce Prevention Center at Penn State. “In particular, African Americans show an increased prevalence in cigarette use much later than white adolescents. We need to think about tobacco prevention interventions that are targeted towards young adults, when use is increasing among African Americans, instead of just for younger adolescents.”
Researchers looked at four sets of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a survey that began in 1994 and repeated in 1996, 2001, and 2008 with the same individuals.