Racial differences in the relationship between number of cigarettes smoked and nicotine and carcinogen exposure

Nicotine Tob Res. 2011 Sep;13(9):772-83. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntr072. Epub 2011 May 5.


Introduction: Black smokers are reported to have higher lung cancer rates and greater tobacco dependence at lower levels of cigarette consumption compared to non-Hispanic White smokers. We studied the relationship between cigarettes per day (CPD) and biomarkers of nicotine and carcinogen exposure in Black and White smokers.

Methods: In 128 Black and White smokers, we measured plasma nicotine and its main proximate metabolite cotinine, urine nicotine equivalents, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3)pyridyl-1-butanol (NNAL), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) metabolites.

Results: The dose-response between CPD and nicotine equivalents, and NNAL and PAH was flat for Black but positive for White smokers (Race × CPD interaction, all ps < .05). Regression estimates for the Race × CPD interactions were 0.042 (95% CI 0.013-0.070), 0.054 (0.023-0.086), and 0.028 (0.004-0.052) for urine nicotine equivalents, NNAL, and PAHs, respectively. In contrast there was a strong correlation between nicotine equivalents and NNAL and PAH independent of race. Nicotine and carcinogen exposure per individual cigarette was inversely related to CPD. This inverse correlation was stronger in Black compared to White smokers and stronger in menthol compared to regular cigarette smokers (not mutually adjusted).

Conclusions: Our data indicate that Blacks on average smoke cigarettes differently than White smokers such that CPD predicts smoke intake more poorly in Black than in White smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / blood*
  • Nicotine / urine
  • Nitrosamines / urine
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / urine
  • Pyridines / urine
  • San Francisco
  • Smoking / blood
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking / urine
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / blood
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / ethnology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / urine
  • White People / psychology
  • Young Adult


  • Carcinogens
  • Nitrosamines
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Pyridines
  • Nicotine
  • 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butan-1-ol
  • Cotinine