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Latino kids are more likely to start smoking and develop a daily habit than other kids, according to a new study, Reuters reports.
The study, led by Sherine El-Toukhy of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, examined “smoking susceptibility,” which precedes smoking behavior, of almost 144,000 non-smoking youth ages 9-21 from 1999 to 2014.
Overall, the amount of smoking susceptibility rose from 21% to 23% over those 15 years.
But smoking susceptibility varied by race/ethnicity:
- For Latino kids, it rose from 22% to 28%.
- For white kids, it held steady at about 21%.
- For black kids, it dropped from 21% to 17% in 2003, but rose back to 20% in 2014.
Latino kids overall appeared to be as much as 67% more susceptible to smoking than white kids, and were most likely to be drawn to cigarettes around ages 12 and 16, the study also found, Reuters reported.
“This is particularly important for prevention efforts in which susceptibility can be used as a screening tool during annual clinic visits to reduce smoking initiation among at-risk youth,” El-Toukhy told Reuters.
Why the disparities?
Authors note Latino kids may live in communities where more businesses sell tobacco or have more peers or family members who smoke.
Some suggested that parents, educators, and healthcare providers need to further convince children and teens that smoking is uncool.
“Some prior research has suggested that discussing medical risks of smoking with young people (e.g., lung cancer, emphysema) doesn’t have as much of an impact, since kids think in the short term,” Dr. Andrew Chang, a researcher at Stanford University in California who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters via email. “Rather, discussing image concerns (e.g., tobacco smells bad, makes your breath smell) may be more effective at changing their attitudes toward smoking.”