The report argues that racial differences in parental attitudes, religious ties, negative health perceptions (and experiences), worsening poverty, increased food stamp use and price sensitivity were major factors contributing to the more rapid decrease and continuing lower rate of smoking among black youth than among other groups.
“Some have suggested that African American youth substituted other forms of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs for cigarettes,” said Tyree Oredein, the corresponding author of the report and a doctoral student at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health. “However, there was an overall decline in the use of both licit and illicit drugs among black high school seniors from the mid 1970s through the early 1990s alongside the fall of cigarette use.” Oredein is also an adjunct professor of health and nutrition sciences at Montclair State University.
In the early 1970s, smoking prevalence among black youth was similar to that of whites. Around 1976, smoking among both groups began to decline, but studies have shown that black youth experienced a much steeper decline. By the early 1990s, white students were more than four times more likely to have reported smoking cigarettes within the previous 30 days than their African American counterparts. Understanding the reasons behind this differential decline could help public health experts shape more effective tobacco prevention policies and programming.
“Some have questioned the validity of the statistics on the decline in African American youth smoking, but between 1992 and 2006, there was a marked drop in lung cancer incidence and death rates among 20 to 39 year olds,” Oredein added. “At the same time, a significantly steeper reduction in these same rates among African American adults mirrored the observed drop in African American youth smoking.”
Jonathan Foulds, PhD, a co-author of the report and professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, added, “This provides strong evidence for an actual decline in smoking among African American youth during the 1970s through the 1990s. The reduction in young adult lung cancer cases in this group is highly likely to be due to the differential decline in smoking among African American youth 10-20 years earlier.”
The authors highlight a policy implication of the data, suggesting that, “Increases in cigarette price due to increased federal and state excise taxes have become and continue to be an effective tool in reducing cigarette use, especially African American youth.”
Journalists interested in interviewing the authors should contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at 856-566-6171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UMDNJ-School of Public Health is the nation’s first collaborative school of public health and is sponsored by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in cooperation with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students on five campuses attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and New Jersey’s only school of public health. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.