Objectives: The purpose of the study was to describe age patterns of smoking among Black and White women of reproductive age, with cohort membership controlled for.
Method: Data from the 1987 National Health Interview Survey Cancer Supplement, weighted to be nationally representative, were used to calculate the fractions of women who were ever smokers, quitters, and current smokers by age and race. Summary distributions of age patterns of smoking behaviors by race were estimated; proportional hazard models were used to avoid confounding of age and cohort.
Results: White women begin smoking at younger ages than do Blacks but are more likely to quit and to do so at young ages. Rates of current smoking converge between Blacks and Whites by age 25, and may cross over by 30. Education-standardized results show larger Black-White differentials in ever smoking and smaller differences in quitting.
Conclusions: Our findings confirm that women's age patterns of smoking vary by race. Age x race interactions should be considered in smoking research and anti-tobacco interventions. For Black women, delayed initiation and failure to quit call for increased emphasis on interventions tailored to adults. These findings have possible implications for understanding Black-White differences in low birthweight, child health, and women's health.