The validity of self-reports of smoking: analyses by race/ethnicity in a school sample of urban adolescents

Am J Public Health. 1997 Jan;87(1):56-61. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.1.56.


Objectives: This research compared the validity of self-reports of cigarette smoking for African-American, Hispanic, and White respondents. Previous research has raised a question about the validity of self-report for African Americans.

Methods: A self-report of cigarette smoking was obtained together with a measure of carbon monoxide from expired air. Convergence between self-reported smoking and the biochemical measure was analyzed separately for three ethnic groups at 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, and 10th grade.

Results: Analyses indicated that the validity of self-reports of smoking was generally comparable across ethnic groups. Sensitivity and specificity were comparable with data reported in recent meta-analyses. Though sensitivity was slightly lower for minority adolescents than for White adolescents, prevalence rates corrected for group differences in sensitivity showed significantly lower smoking rates for African-American and Hispanic adolescents than for White adolescents.

Conclusions: The lower smoking rates reported for African-American adolescents are real and are not substantially a consequence of reporting artifacts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans*
  • Bias
  • Breath Tests
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Child
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • Smoking / metabolism
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Urban Health*


  • Carbon Monoxide