Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

African American Young Adult Smoking Initiation: Identifying Intervention Points and Prevention Opportunities

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

African American Young Adult Smoking Initiation: Identifying Intervention Points and Prevention Opportunities

Article excerpt

Background: African Americans have one of the lowest smoking rates as teens yet have one of the highest smoking rates as adults. Approximately 40% of African Americans who have ever smoked started smoking between the ages of 18 and 21. Purpose: This study aimed to identify why African American young adults began smoking in young adulthood and what personal, social, and environmental influences promoted the transition to regular smoking. Methods: Twelve focus groups were conducted with African American young adults (n--99) between the ages of 18 and 29 who began smoking regularly after the age of 18. Results: Participants did not smoke while they were younger because of strong maternal antismoking messages, out of respect for elders, or because they smoked marijuana instead. Factors influencing smoking initiation were perceived smoking social norms, changing parental messages about smoking, believing that smoking was an adult coping strategy, and extending a marijuana high. Discussion: African American young adult smokers described multiple levels of influences on smoking initiation and the transition to regular smoking. Translation to Health Education Practice: Recommendations include continuing strong parental messages against smoking, preparing youth for the transition to young adulthood, targeting normative smoking beliefs, and delinking smoking from marijuana use.

BACKGROUND

Young adults are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. (1,2) Consequently, young adults (age 18-24) have the highest smoking rate of any age group in the United States. (3) Approximately 40% of African Americans who have ever smoked started smoking between the ages of 18 and 21. (4,5) This is particularly interesting in that African American youth are less likely to smoke than white and Hispanic youth. Only 9.5% of African American 9th to 12th graders smoked cigarettes on at least one day in the last 30 days compared to 22.5% of white teens and 18% of Hispanic teens. (6) However, in adulthood, African Americans (26.4%) surpass Hispanics (19.8%) and whites (20.8%) in current smoking rate. (7) This poses a significant public health concern because African Americans are less likely than whites and Hispanics to quit smoking once they start and suffer greater health effects from smoking later in life. (6,8,9) Understanding what is happening in African American young adulthood to promote smoking initiation is the first step in developing effective interventions to prevent these adolescents from initiating smoking as they enter young adulthood and to ultimately reduce health disparities.

Compared to the amount of research on young adult smoking cessation, there are few studies that are focused on smoking initiation, (10) and even fewer have explored the social and cultural influences surrounding smoking initiation and progression to regular smoking in African American young adults.

Beginning in the 1980s, smoking rates in African American youth experienced a shift, characterized by a decrease in smoking initiation in African American teens and an increase in smoking initiation for young adults ages 18 to 20. The shift to smoking initiation in young adults was larger for African Americans than for whites. (11) As a result, current smoking rates are lower for African American adolescents than whites and smoking initiation rates in African American young adults are approaching rates for whites. (12) African American young adult smoking rates are still below those of whites (1,13,14) but, unlike whites, African American smoking initiation continues into the late 20s and 30s. (8,15,16)

Several studies have followed African American adolescents into young adulthood to determine early influences on smoking initiation in young adults. Consistent with cross-sectional research, significantly more African Americans (30%) than whites (9%) began smoking after age 18 while significantly more whites (30%) than African Americans (7%) began smoking before age 12. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.