New Study Sheds Light on Smoking Habits of Blacks

A recent study featured in the American Journal of Public Health entitled “Disparities in Smoking Cessation Between African Americans” found that African Americans are less likely to begin smoking than whites. However, once African Americans begin smoking, they are less likely to quit, due to socio-economic factors. 

The report studied the smoking habits of African Americans and whites from 1999 to 2000. Using the term “racially classified social group” instead of racial or ethnic group, the authors wanted to emphasize the difference in data collected was not a result of skin color or genetic make up.  Instead, they wanted to look into social factors that may have caused the differences in data collected from the groups.

The authors analyzed data provided by the National Health Interview that included responses from 30,660 African Americans and 209, 828 whites between the ages of 18 and 64.  They assembled the information into a graph with categories of new smokers, former smokers, current smokers and persons who have ever smoked. In addition to discovering that African Americans are less likely to quite smoking, authors found that among former smokers, African Americans were more successful in quitting. 

The recent study may have been a breakthrough in the prevention of smoking. Health care officials will be able to use the results of the analysis to increase awareness and encourage intervention for targeted smokers. 

Lead author of the paper, Gary King, in an interview with Penn State University, offered an explanation of why African Americans have a larger percent of non-smokers. 

“The higher percentage of lifelong non-smokers among blacks can probably be attributed largely to parental prohibitions and various social norms that have curtailed tendencies toward smoking among African American teenagers and women, as well as among non-native black populations and blacks in certain U.S. geographic regions,” he said.  

The study offered an explanation of social, physiological and psychological factors that may motivate people to stop smoking and follow through with the decision to quit.   The article also explained that for the past 10 years, public health officials have targeted high rates of smoking among young African Americans.  Programs such as community interventions have been implemented. 

Nakia Hill, a sophomore at Howard University feels that African Americans may have a lower rate of smoking because of social factors.  “Black teens and young people do not smoke as much as white teens because it is not the “in” thing to do right now.  Also, once black people start smoking, they don’t know of risks and may not have access to health care, which leads to a lifetime of smoking,” she said.