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Soc Sci Med. 1997 Oct;45(7):1075-87.

The "race" concept in smoking: a review of the research on African Americans.

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06030, USA.


This paper presents an analysis of the "race" concept as used by researchers who have studied the smoking behavior of African Americans. Most researchers in the field have failed to address the conceptual dimensions and meanings of "race" and accept uncritically the use of the term. This practice is viewed as an impediment in explaining inter- and intra-racial group differences and intervening effectively to reduce consumption of tobacco products. Adopting the majority-minority intergroup relations paradigm, the conceptual and practical meanings of "race" are reviewed by focusing on the history of relations between blacks and tobacco, conceptions of "race," "biology" and cigarette smoking, and the sociological nucleus (e.g. social class, racism and culture) of "race." Genetic or biologic assumptions and meanings of "race" in research on the smoking behavior of African Americans are critically examined. It is argued that "race" is a dynamic social construct reflecting societal transformations in relations between racially classified social groups (RCSGs).

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