Black and White adults' perspectives on the genetics of nicotine addiction susceptibility

Addict Behav. 2011 Jul;36(7):769-72. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.02.007. Epub 2011 Feb 25.


Aims: Emerging research may soon lead to improved quit rates via genetically-tailored smoking cessation treatment. The purpose of this study was to explore individuals' beliefs and attitudes about genetic testing in this context, and how these may differ across racial groups.

Design: Two site qualitative study.

Methods: Eleven focus groups were conducted in 2007 with 51 Black and 55 White adult participants in Montgomery, AL and Baltimore, MD.

Measurements: Questions were asked about smoking as an addiction, the role of genetics in nicotine addiction susceptibility, and undergoing genetic testing to receive tailored smoking cessation treatment. Data were analyzed using content analysis.

Findings: Most participants believed that smoking was an addiction yet were unwilling to endorse the notion that genetics played a role in nicotine addiction susceptibility. However, 91% of White participants and 62% of Black participants indicated that they would likely take a genetic test that would match them to their optimal smoking cessation treatment. The primary potential benefit was a vague sense that additional knowledge about oneself would be of value. Primary barriers included disinterest and skepticism about the test, unwillingness to believe that genetics played a role in nicotine addiction or treatment response, and concerns about psychological consequences.

Conclusions: The majority of participants, particularly Black participants, did not believe that genetics played a significant role in nicotine addiction susceptibility but were willing to undergo genetic testing. Participants identified some benefit to tailoring smoking treatment by genotype. However, participants also expressed skepticism about the test and concerns about its consequences; these issues would need to be addressed in the clinical encounter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alabama
  • Attitude to Health
  • Behavior, Addictive / ethnology
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Blacks / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / ethnology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Smoking / ethnology
  • Smoking / genetics*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / ethnology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / genetics*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology
  • Whites / psychology*
  • Young Adult