White Students Twice as Likely As Blacks To Smoke, Study Finds

By Ellen Flax — September 25, 1991 1 min read

White high-school students are more than twice as likely as black students to smoke, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control concludes.

According to the study, based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 11,631 students in grades 9 through 12, 41.2 percent of all white students, but only 16.8 percent of black students, said they had smoked or used chewing tobacco at least once during the previous month.

The study, which was drawn from data collected by the C.D.C.'S Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which questions students about a range of health issues, also found that white females are more likely to be frequent smokers than any other type of student.

Some 16.6 percent of these women, it found, had smoked on at least 25 days of the previous month, compared with 12.8 percent of all students and 15.2 percent of white males.

Only 2.3 percent of black students and 7.4 percent of Hispanic students were frequent smokers.

Over all, the study found, white students were most likely to smoke, black students were least likely, and Hispanic students used tobacco at ratios that fell between those of the other two groups.

The report’s finding that black students are less likely than white students to use tobacco is consistent with a study released earlier this year by the University of Michigan research team that conducts an annual national survey of high-school seniors. (See Education Week, March 6, 1991.)

Almost one-third of the students surveyed by the C.D.C. said they had smoked a cigarette during the previous month, and 10 percent said they had used smokeless tobacco or snuff. About 19 percent of the boys said they had used chewing tobacco, while only 1.4 percent of the girls said they had used it. More than 40 percent of the males said they had used tobacco within the past month, versus 31.7 percent of the female students questioned.

Older students used tobacco more often than younger ones, the report found. Almost one-third of 9th-grade students said they had used tobacco during the past 30 days; the figure was 41.2 percent for seniors.

To reduce the number of teenagers who smoke, the C.D.C. recommends that schools boost anti-tobacco instruction and create smoke-free buildings. The C.D.C. also called for better enforcement of laws that prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco to minors, and for an increase in state excise taxes on tobacco products.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 25, 1991 edition of Education Week as White Students Twice as Likely As Blacks To Smoke, Study Finds