Although multiple factors likely influence the differences between African Americans (AAs) and whites in cardiovascular disease and lung cancer mortality rates, historical patterns of tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, are the major contributors. This issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research presents original research, a review, and commentaries that will serve to advance our understanding of several relevant behavioral similarities and differences between AAs and whites.

Behavioral Analysis:

Here, we illustrate how the diverging trends in cigarette smoking between AA and white high school seniors observed since the mid-1970s were influenced by patterns of ever use and current use among ever users. During 1977 to 2014, the percentage of current users among ever users was higher, but less variable, among whites than AAs. Among adults, trends in self-reported cigarette smoking among non-Hispanic AAs and non-Hispanic whites are available since 1978. The trends observed were likely due in part to the maturation of the high school senior cohorts from the 1970s and 1980s when AA smoking rates declined sharply relative to whites. Later age of initiation among AAs and less quitting among older AAs, relative to whites, also contribute.


Further research on multiple topics, including the continuation of use among ever users, use of multiple combusted and noncombusted products, provision of cessation support services, influence of discrimination, and validity of self-report would expand the science base. Strategies to reduce the marketing and availability of menthol and other characterizing flavorings and to enrich environments would promote the public’s health.

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