Ethnic Differences in Cigarette Use Trajectories and Health, Psychosocial, and Academic Outcomes

Published in:Journal of Adolescent Health [Epub December 2017]. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.09.019

by Michael Stephen Dunbar, Joan S. Tucker, Brett Ewing, Layla Parast, Eric R. Pedersen, Anthony Rodriguez, Elizabeth J. D'Amico

Read More

Access further information on this document at Elsevier

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.


Cigarette smoking among youth is associated with poorer health and psychosocial outcomes. However, few studies address how smoking may differentially relate to the emergence of disparities in functioning across races/ethnicities over adolescence.


Youth (n=2,509) were surveyed eight times from ages 11 to 18. We measured cigarette use, academic and social functioning, mental and physical health, and delinquency. Sequelae of change models controlled for sociodemographic factors, and tested whether intercept and slope for smoking trajectories were associated with outcomes at the end of high school, and examined racial/ethnic differences in outcomes assuming similar smoking trajectories across groups.


Youth were 45% Hispanic, 20% Asian, 20% white, 10% multiethnic, 2% black, and 1% other ethnicities. Higher average probability of smoking and steeper slopes of smoking trajectories were associated with poorer outcomes in multiple domains. Controlling for smoking trajectories, we observed the following disparities (vs. white youth; all p's<.05): black, Hispanic, and multiethnic youth reported lower academic performance; Asian, black, and multiethnic youth reported higher academic unpreparedness; Asian and multiethnic youth reported poorer mental health; Asian, Hispanic, and multiethnic youth reported poorer physical health; and Asian youth reported higher delinquency and poorer social functioning.


Statistically adjusting for similar smoking trajectories, racial/ethnic minority youth demonstrated poorer outcomes in multiple domains compared with white peers. Smoking may be a particularly robust marker for risk of negative outcomes in racial/ethnic minority youth. Screening for cigarette use and intervening on smoking and associated risk behaviors among minority youth may help reduce disparities in functioning.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.