Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dace Svikis

Second Advisor

Joseph Porter


Cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use are responsible for over 440,000 deaths per year in the U.S. Health consequences associated with cigarette smoking include cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. Despite awareness of the health risks, approximately 21% of the U.S. adult population smokes. Efforts to-date to reduce smoking-related disease and illness have focused on prevention and intervention strategies that encourage cessation. Adolescence is a critical period for both intervention and prevention. Because more than three-fourths (80%) of adult smokers reported starting to smoke prior to the age of 18, prevention and brief intervention is likely to be most effective during this early period of time. In addition, earlier age of onset for smoking is associated with greater subsequent dependence severity, more substantive health sequelae, and less successful outcomes following subsequent quit attempts. Several studies have explored potential demographic and psychosocial variables that may help predict the likelihood adolescents may initiate smoking. Interestingly, many of these studies have focused predominately on Caucasian populations. Thus, is it unclear whether such findings hold true with population subgroups such as African American youth. In research to-date, AA and Caucasian groups differ in rates of smoking initiation, subsequent levels of nicotine dependence, and tobacco cessation efforts. Additionally, as adults, AA bear a disproportionate weight of smoking-related adverse health effects. Previous studies posit that certain variables (demographics, social/peer influences) may differentially influence smoking in AA adolescents. Clearly, more research is needed comparing predictors of AA adolescent smoking to those published with predominantly Caucasian adolescent samples. The present study (N=150) employed a computer-directed assessment to examine smoking in an urban sample of AA adolescents recruited through their primary care provider. The assessment included demographic and psychosocial variables previously found to predict the likelihood of an adolescent trying a cigarette in Caucasian adolescent samples (e.g., peer smoking, adult smoking in the home, self-esteem, and self-efficacy). Findings indicated that AA adolescent smokers (ever smokers) were more likely to have friends who have tried smoking, were more likely to have adult smokers in the home, and scored lower in self-efficacy skills germane to avoiding situations where smoking was present, as compared to nonsmokers. Additionally, computerized assessment for tobacco use was found to be useful in clinic settings. Study findings can aid in the development of specialized prevention and cessation campaigns for minority populations.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009

Included in

Psychology Commons