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

Posted on on January 11, 2018

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


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.

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