Nav: Home

Racism linked to uptake of smoking in young people

January 24, 2018

Adolescents who have experienced some form of racism between the ages of 11 and 23 are more likely to take up smoking than those who have not, according to a new study led by King's College London.

Published in PLOS ONE, the study analysed questionnaire and interview data from the Determinants of young Adult Social well-being and Health (DASH) study, one of the UK's largest longitudinal studies of ethnically diverse young people.

Information about smoking and experiences of racism was collected from over 6500 pupils at 51 London schools. Surveys were completed when pupils were aged 11-13 and then again with 4785 of the pupils at age 14-16. Over 600 participants were then followed up aged 21-23 as part of a pilot study and 42 undertook qualitative interviews.

The team, working in collaboration with researchers at UCL and the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, discovered that the young people they studied were around 80 per cent more likely to have smoked if they also indicated that they had experienced some form of racism. The findings support theories from previous studies that have suggested racism can trigger a stress response that results in risky health behaviours, such as smoking.

The study also found:
  • Those who reported racism at both 11-13 and 14-16 were around 80 per cent more likely to report smoking for the first time by the time they were 16

  • Similar associations were shown between reported racism and having smoked at any time in their young lives

  • Those who reported good relationships with their families or regularly attending a place of worship were less likely to smoke

  • Less than 20 per cent of ethnic minority participants reported no religion

  • Young people from ethnic minority backgrounds were still less likely to smoke than their White British peers

  • The link with religious adherence cannot be proven by this study but around 40 per cent of White British participants reported no religion

Whilst the study cannot show any causation, the links suggested by the quantitative analysis were supported by the outcomes of the qualitative interviews. These interviews highlighted persistent exposure to racism from an early age and the positive impact of parental and religious support. This appeared to help participants find different coping strategies and nurture self-esteem.

Commenting on the findings, lead author, Dr Ursula Read, said: 'As well as analysing the DASH data, our study looked at the qualitative detail of participant experiences of racism, relationships and religion. The findings overall highlight the role of racism as an important social determinant of health.

'This integrated analysis also supports theories that racism can trigger a stress response that could lead to smoking as a type of coping strategy. Public health organisations should consider carefully the impact of discrimination and disadvantage on these kinds of risky health behaviours.'

These findings are specific to the London-based study although the large, diverse sample studied means the results may be generalisable to other urban settings in the UK and elsewhere.

Professor Seeromanie Harding, Principal Investigator of the DASH study, said: 'Despite recent decreases in smoking in the UK, the Office for National Statistics has said that 58 per cent of heavy smokers report having started smoking regularly before the age of 16.

'Our findings have public health implications for improving community interventions and finding new ways to support and encourage people not to take up smoking at a young age. An important point here is that racism affects both physical and mental health outcomes. Addressing racism is an important public health priority for young people.'
-end-


King's College London

Related Smoking Articles:

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.
No safe level of smoking
People who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death than people who never smoked.
Nearly half of women who stop smoking during pregnancy go back to smoking soon after baby is born
A major new review published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that in studies testing the effectiveness of stop-smoking support for pregnant women, nearly half (43 percent) of the women who managed to stay off cigarettes during the pregnancy went back to smoking within six months of the birth.
If you want to quit smoking, do it now
Smokers who try to cut down the amount they smoke before stopping are less likely to quit than those who choose to quit all in one go, Oxford University researchers have found.
Cochrane news: Have national smoking bans worked in reducing harms in passive smoking?
The most robust evidence yet, published today in the Cochrane Library, suggests that national smoking legislation does reduce the harms of passive smoking, and particularly risks from heart disease.
Advocating for raising the smoking age to 21
Henry Ford Hospital pulmonologist Daniel Ouellette, M.D., who during his 31-year career in medicine has seen the harmful effects of smoking on his patients, advocates for raising the smoking age to 21.
Stress main cause of smoking after childbirth
Mothers who quit smoking in pregnancy are more likely to light up again after their baby is born if they feel stressed.
As smoking declines, more are likely to quit
Smokeless tobacco and, more recently, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a harm reduction strategy for smokers who are 'unable or unwilling to quit.' The strategy, embraced by both industry and some public health advocates, is based on the assumption that as smoking declines overall, only those who cannot quit will remain.
Smoking around your toddler could be just as bad as smoking while pregnant
Children whose parents smoked when they were toddlers are likely to have a wider waist and a higher BMI by time they reach ten years of age, reveal researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte Justine Research Centre.
Smoking and angioplasty: Not a good combination
Quitting smoking when you have angioplasty is associated with better quality of life and less chest pain.

Related Smoking Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".