Study of Smoking by Philadelphia Teens Shows Blacks 26 Percent Less Likely to Start Smoking Than Whites

In 2000–2001, a research team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences undertook a study of 990 black and white adolescents to investigate how social factors, including school experiences and families, contribute to smoking among youth.

Because 80 percent of adults who ever smoked started before they were 18, many tobacco-control advocates stress a youth-centered approach to smoking cessation programs. But little is known about how social factors influence teens' use of tobacco.

Key Findings

  • Black students are much less likely to smoke than whites; the odds of current smoking for black students are 26 percent less than those for whites.
  • Although blacks performed more poorly than whites in school, they reported better psycho-social experiences than did white students.
  • Preliminary results from the sixth wave of the Philadelphia Educational Longitudinal Study showed that there were few attitudinal differences on perceived benefits of smoking between black and white students who had ever been regular smokers, including smoking as a source of enjoyment, a way to deal with stress or feel older, and as something to do with friends, or whether smoking was cool.