Purpose: To examine associations between the perceived smoking environment and smoking initiation among urban multi-ethnic adolescent girls in New York City.
Methods: Self-report surveys completed in grades 7, 8, and 9 assessed girls' (n = 858) smoking initiation, and perceived smoking environment (family smoking, friends' smoking, smoking norms, and cigarette availability). Carbon monoxide breath samples were collected from girls using a variation of the bogus pipeline procedure.
Results: Differences were found in smoking prevalence with white girls reporting the highest prevalence of smoking at baseline and greatest increase in smoking prevalence from seventh to eighth grade. Black girls reported an initial increase in smoking prevalence from seventh to eighth grade followed by a decrease from eighth to ninth grade. Family smoking, friends' smoking, smoking norms, and cigarette availability were all associated with smoking initiation at eighth grade but only friends' smoking was associated with smoking initiation at ninth grade. Few ethnic differences were found in risk factors at baseline and racial/ethnic group did not modify associations between risk and smoking initiation.
Conclusions: Urban adolescent girls of different racial/ethnic backgrounds had similar perceptions of the smoking environment. Despite the similarity of risk factors across racial/ethnic groups, urban white girls are at increased risk to initiate smoking. Preventive interventions that target girls' perceived smoking environment during early adolescence should be effective across ethnic groups.