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Nicotine Tob Res. 2002 Feb;4(1):79-93.

Ethnic differences in predictors of initiation and persistence of adolescent cigarette smoking in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, The New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University, 1051 Riverside Drive, Box 20, New York, NY 10032, USA.



To identify and compare predictors of adolescent smoking initiation and persistence among African American, Hispanic and White adolescents in a longitudinal national sample.


The sample includes 1537 mother-child dyads from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). Family, youth, peer and sociodemographic risk and protective factors were analyzed.


White adolescents reported the highest rates of smoking initiation and persistence; African Americans and Hispanics the lowest. Multivariate analyses revealed mostly common and few ethnic-specific predictors of smoking initiation and persistence. For initiation, maternal current smoking, child age, child problem behavior, and perceived peer pressure to smoke were predictive across ethnic groups; female gender and ineffective parenting were predictive among Whites only. For persistence, child age, child problem behavior and perceived scholastic competence were predictive across ethnic groups; negative mood was predictive among Whites only.


More common than unique factors predict smoking initiation and persistence among adolescents of different ethnicity. However, the power to detect ethnicity-by-predictor interactions with respect to persistence was low. Social factors are more important for smoking initiation, whereas individual factors are more important for persistence, although child problem behaviors are common determinants both of initiation and persistence. With few exceptions, universal anti-smoking interventions should be targeted to youths of different ethnicity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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