Objectives: (1) To test the hypothesis that the prevalence of smoking among African-American teenagers is lower than among whites and Hispanic inner-city senior high school students; (2) to assess the patterns of smoking among inner-city teenagers; and (3) to ascertain the relationship between smoking status and their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Methods: All students attending inner-city senior high schools in two cities in New Jersey were included in the survey (n = 8,900). Response Rate was 85%; 89% of respondents were minority teenagers.
Results: The overall point prevalence rate of cigarette smoking was 9%. Almost all smoking began before the age of 16 years. The factors that significantly (p < .001) contributed to the initiation of cigarette smoking were: peer influence, self-initiation, and the influence of relatives' cigarette smoking. The factors that were stated to play a major role in progression to regular smoking were: perceptions that smoking relieves stress and feelings of induced pleasure while smoking. In addition, smokers were significantly (p < .0005) less knowledgeable about smoke-related diseases than exsmokers or nonsmokers. Over two-thirds of smokers and exsmokers believed that it is the physician's responsibility to advise patients to quit smoking and the majority of the current smokers contemplated quitting smoking. The data support the hypothesis that smoking prevalence among African-American teenagers is significantly lower than among white and Hispanic teenagers who attended the senior high school and resided in the inner city.
Conclusion: These data suggest that multidimensional antismoking strategies are needed to address the smoking among predominately minority teenagers. This includes supportive messages from physicians, relatives, friends along with public policy to act as motivating factors to discourage early smoking.