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Ann Behav Med. 2004 Dec;28(3):152-7.

Has there been a delay in the age of regular smoking onset among African Americans?

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  • 1Cancer Prevention and Control Program, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.



It is not clear whether the decline in African American adolescent smoking in the 1980s reflected a delay in age of onset of regular smoking initiation rather than success in preventing initiation completely.


The purpose of this study is to identify whether the marked reductions in African American adolescent smoking in the 1980s were offset by increased initiation in young adults.


We combined data from the Tobacco Use Supplements of the 1992-1993, 1995-1996, and 1998-1999 Current Population Surveys (n = 512,258), and reconstructed year of smoking initiation and calculated age-specific incidence of initiation from 1970 to 1992. We then compared detailed age-specific rates of initiation for two 5-year periods selected to be before and after the documented large declines in African American adolescent smoking.


In the time period after marked declines in African American adolescent smoking (1987-1991), the incidence of initiation of regular smoking decreased for African Americans ages 14 to 16 and increased for ages 18 to 20. Such a delay was not as evident among non-Hispanic Whites. The delay that was slight in regular smoking initiation among African Americans relative to non-Hispanic Whites in 1975-79 had increased substantially by 1987-91.


Reductions in African American adolescent smoking in the 1980s were offset by increased initiation among young adults ages 18 to 20 during this time period and suggest that the window for uptake of regular smoking shifted to older ages for African Americans more so than non-Hispanic Whites. Efforts to combat smoking should remain aggressive into young adulthood, when the tobacco industry's efforts to gain new smokers intensify.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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