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:

Telomere length unaffected by smoking
A new study has surprised the medical world, finding that smoking does not shorten the length of telomeres -- a marker at the end of our chromosomes that is widely accepted as an indicator of aging.
Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.
Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.
Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
More Smoking News and Smoking Current Events

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

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...