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Smoking Disparity Between White and Black High School Girls


January 1998

Michael P. Eriksen of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified to the Health and Environment Subcommittee of the U.S. House Commerce Committee that smoking by black female high school students remained far lower than white high school girls (Barry Meier, "Among girls, blacks smoke much less," New York Times, December 10, 1997, p. A22).

Eriksen testified that a 1995 survey showed that 40% of white female high school students smoked as opposed to 12% of black females. Eriksen said Federal researchers were still trying to understand the disparity, but interviews with students suggest that black and white girls had different views of smoking and the image it projected. "White and American Indian girls described smoking as empowering, particularly in relation to males," said Eriksen. Eriksen added that black girls "held extremely negative views of smoking," and "they believed that smoking would compromise their future and mess up their lives." He also noted that black and Hispanic females frequently believed that smoking was disrespectful to their parents. The subcommittee is examining the proposed $368.5 billion settlement between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general.

Michael P. Eriksen - 4770 Buford Hwy., NE, Mailstop K50, Atlanta, GA, 40041-3724, Tel: (770) 488-5701.

U.S. House Health and Environment Subcommittee - 2125 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2927, Fax: (202) 225-1919.