The role of air nicotine in explaining racial differences in cotinine among tobacco-exposed children

Chest. 2007 Mar;131(3):856-862. doi: 10.1378/chest.06-2123.


Objective: African-American children have higher rates of tobacco-associated morbidity. Few studies have objectively measured racial differences in the exposure of children to tobacco smoke. The objective of this study was to test whether African-American children have higher levels of cotinine compared to white children while accounting for ambient measures of tobacco smoke.

Setting: Community-based sample of asthmatic children (n = 220) enrolled in an environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) reduction trial.

Participants: A biracial sample (55% African American) of children with asthma aged 5 to 12 years who were routinely exposed to ETS.

Measurements: We measured cotinine levels in serum and hair samples at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. We measured the level of ETS exposure over a 6-month period by placing air nicotine dosimeters in the homes of the children at baseline and at 6-month study visits.

Results: African-American children had significantly higher levels of cotinine at all time points in the study. At the 12-month visit, African-American children had higher levels of serum cotinine (1.39 mug/dL vs 0.80 mug/dL, p = 0.001) and hair cotinine (0.28 ng/mg vs 0.08 ng/mg, p < 0.0001) when compared with white children. In a repeated-measures analysis, African-American children had significantly higher levels of serum cotinine (beta = 0.28, p = 0.04) and hair cotinine (beta = 1.40, p < 0.0001) compared with white children. Air nicotine levels and housing volume were independently associated with higher levels of cotinine.

Conclusions: Among children with asthma, African-American children have higher levels of serum and hair cotinine compared with white children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Asthma / blood*
  • Asthma / ethnology
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cotinine / blood*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Ohio
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine