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Smoking and Race

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From the brands of cigarettes people use to the types of cigars people use, there are variations by race. There are also death rate differences and variations in how peoples of different race and ethnicity. I will explore causes for these points as well.

From the CDC’s Fact Sheet on tobacco use, we can see that Marlboro (41 percent), Newport (12 percent), Camel (8 percent), Pall Mall (8 percent) and Pyramid (2 percent) were the leading cigarette brands.The percentage of those older than 12 years old who smoked menthol was 19.1% black, 3.6% Asian, 7.8% ‘Hispanic’, and 6.5% white. You can see this looking in any majority black area how younger blacks most always smoke menthols, mainly Newport and sometimes Kools.

In my experience, that has been the case. For whites, the main brand was either Marlboro menthol, Marlboro lights or Marlboro Reds. For Asians it was most always Parliament Lights; they sure do love those.

Exposure to Newports in their environments may also be a factor for blacks smoking more menthol cigarettes, such as Newports. I have already written a bit about the media’s involvement in both a positive and negative way that affects behaviors, so by seeing more advertisements for a certain kind of cigarette, they’ll be more likely to smoke the brand that they constantly see, see their parents or siblings smoking (though, controlling for that in the study, they were still able to recognize Newports) smoking or ones that they can take that are lying around. Regardless of race, those students who were able to recognize Newports were more likely to begin at follow up even after controlling for other risk factors. In this sample of 1179 students (this was a longitudinal study), non-recognition of Camel and Marlboro did not predict smoking at follow-up.  These factors also involve what I will discuss below.

Caraballo (1998) found that serum cotinine levels were higher than blacks than they were in whites. That is, blacks have higher levels of the metabolized form of nicotine in their bodies than do whites called ‘cotinine‘. This causes blacks’ bodies to absorb more nicotine than whites due to these biological factors. This may possibly explain why blacks have more cases of lung cancer and are less likely to quit smoking.

Non-‘Hispanic’ blacks also have two times the amount of cotinine than do Mexican and white Americans. This affects how much of the nicotine absorbed into the blood stream as well as the increase in getting cancer.

The differences in cancer disparity between blacks and whites cannot be explained by the preference for a certain brand of cigarette. Though, that study does confirm that those who smoke more mentholated cigarettes take deeper inhales. So in a way, in can be said to be explained by brand preference, since those who smoke menthol cigarettes inhale more deeply than those who smoke a non-mentholated brand.

Ross et al (2016) discovered that blacks take more pulls per cigarette and take deeper, longer pulls than do whites, which is the cause for the disparity in lung cancer between blacks and whites (along with higher cotinine levels in blacks, that’s the cause for more nicotine absorption). Deeper inhales means more nicotine is being absorbed into the body and therefore cotinine levels increase.I could also see personality differences playing a factor in who takes longer pulls and more pulls of a cigarette as well.

Higher testosterone levels may also be correlated with lung cancer. With blacks having more testosterone on average than whites, we can see how these disparities in  hormone levels between the races are the cause for differences in acquisition of disease rate between the races. It seems that all cancers have high correlations with increased testosterone, not just prostate. Higher testosterone is associated with many negative variables, and of course, blacks have some of the most negative health effects. This is a combination of genes x environment. Their environment is more conducive to menthol cigarettes (mostly Newports), blacks also are more extroverted, which means they’re more sociable and therefore can coerce each other to do things, such as smoking (lower IQ also plays a part in coercion).

In teenage populations, whites showed a higher use for tobacco smoking and marijuana usage, but in the 20s, blacks and ‘Hispanics’ are more likely to pick up the habits, while whites drop off. The researchers conclude that we need to better understand why these substance abuse behaviors exist, which differing personality traits (due to testosterone, as well as that being a factor for smoking more) are part of the cause for it in my opinion.

Higher free and total testosterone was found in males, even after stratification of age, BMI, triglycerides and alcohol consumption were controlled for. This shows why more blacks and ‘Hispanics’ are represented more in  the statistics after age 20, as that’s when genetics takes full effect, so they would be over-represented in these cases.

With the higher natural cotinine levels, this causes blacks to absorb more nicotine; they take more pulls per cigarette as well as deeper pulls. Along with smoking cigarettes with more nicotine and more tar in them, this is a cause for the disparity between blacks and whites and how it involves the acquisition of lung cancer. Higher testosterone individuals turn to smoking more than lower testosterone individuals.

I theorize that part of the reason for deeper pulls of a cigarette as well as more pulls is correlated with the amount of testosterone one has, which is then correlated with how extroverted they are. Extroversion leads to being around others more often, which, even with desegregation, there has been less integration, not more. Since they’re more likely to be around each other due to desegregation not ending people segregating by race, they then are exposed to others who are smoking as well as doing other thing that younger children with higher testosterone will be more likely to do, in part because of exposure to the new stimulus along with higher testosterone which leads to more impulsive behavior.. This leads to one of many social and biological variables that lead to blacks having higher rates of lung cancer due to smoking.



  1. […] impaired blood vessels due to the higher blood pressure from hypertension, which is exacerbated by smoking. Higher rates of hypertension can then be attributed as another cause of death of those who die […]


  2. […] heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for all Americans of all ages and ethnic groups (smoking is a leading cause of this). Blacks suffer the highest percentage of deaths due to CHD. And finally, inability to find a vein […]


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