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Nicotine Tob Res. 2011 Nov;13(11):1037-44. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntr128. Epub 2011 Jul 7.

Ethnoracial differences in emergency department patients' tobacco use.

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  • 1Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies, School of Social Work, San Diego State University, 6386 Alvarado Ct. Suite 224, San Diego, CA 92120, USA.



This study examined ethnoracial differences in lifetime and recent tobacco use and related problems in a large convenience sample of Latino, Black, and Non-Latino White emergency department (ED) patients. In addition, ED patients' use rates were compared with those of a statewide sample.


Trained bilingual/bicultural health educators screened almost 53,000 ED patients in 8 ED/trauma units throughout San Diego County over a 2-year period. Measures included sociodemographic characteristics and tobacco use measures from the Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening Test brief screening instrument.


A consistent finding was the lower prevalence of tobacco use among Latino patients compared with Black and Non-Latino White patients. Compared with their general population counterparts, Non-Latino White, Latino, and Black patients were more likely to have used tobacco in their lifetime and on a daily basis.


Results indicate the high tobacco risk status of ED patients, regardless of ethnicity. More work is needed to develop effective approaches for ED-initiated tobacco interventions for patients in various racial/ethnic groups. Offering tobacco cessation support in opportune venues such as the ED holds great potential to improve accessibility to public health interventions for many underserved communities who may not have regular interaction with a primary care provider.

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