Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 353-371

First online:

Racial/Ethnic and Nativity Patterns of U.S. Adolescent and Young Adult Smoking

  • Becky WadeAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Rice University Email author 
  • , Joseph T. LariscyAffiliated withPopulation Research Center and Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
  • , Robert A. HummerAffiliated withPopulation Research Center and Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

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We document racial/ethnic and nativity differences in U.S. smoking patterns among adolescents and young adults using the 2006 Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey (n = 44,202). Stratifying the sample by nativity status within five racial/ethnic groups (Asian American, Mexican–American, other Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and non-Hispanic white), and further by sex and age, we compare self-reports of lifetime smoking across groups. U.S.-born non-Hispanic whites, particularly men, report smoking more than individuals in other racial/ethnic/nativity groups. Some groups of young women (e.g., foreign-born and U.S.-born Asian Americans, foreign-born and U.S.-born Mexican–Americans, and foreign-born blacks) report extremely low levels of smoking. Foreign-born females in all of the 25–34 year old racial/ethnic groups exhibit greater proportions of never smoking than their U.S.-born counterparts. Heavy/moderate and light/intermittent smoking is generally higher in the older age group among U.S.-born males and females, whereas smoking among the foreign-born of both sexes is low at younger ages and remains low at older ages. Taken together, these findings highlight the importance of considering both race/ethnicity and nativity in assessments of smoking patterns and in strategies to reduce overall U.S. smoking prevalence and smoking-attributable health disparities.


Race/ethnicity Nativity Smoking Adolescents Young adults