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Am J Public Health. 2010 Mar;100(3):510-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.169771. Epub 2010 Jan 14.

Gender differences in the association between perceived discrimination and adolescent smoking.

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  • 1Children's Health Services Research, Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.



We examined associations between perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, gender, and cigarette smoking among adolescents.


We examined data on Black and Latino adolescents aged 12 to 19 years who participated in the Moving to Opportunity study (N = 2561). Perceived discrimination was assessed using survey items asking about unfair treatment because of race/ethnicity in the prior 6 months. We used logistic regression to investigate associations between discrimination and smoking, stratified by gender and controlling for covariates.


One fourth of adolescents reported that discrimination had occurred in at least 1 location. Discrimination was associated with increased odds of smoking among boys (odds ratio [OR] = 1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2, 3.0) and decreased odds among girls (OR = 0.6; 95% CI = 0.3, 1.1). Discrimination at school or work contributed to associations for girls (OR = 0.3; 95% CI = 0.1, 0.9), and discrimination at shops (OR = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.1, 3.8) and by police (OR = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.2, 3.4) contributed to associations for boys.


Associations between discrimination and smoking differ by gender. Girls' decreased smoking in higher-discrimination settings may be a result of protective factors associated with where they spend time. Boys' increased smoking in higher-discrimination settings may reflect increased stress from gender-specific targeting by police and businesses.

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