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Disparities in current cigarette smoking among US adults, 2002–2016


Background To assess disparities in current (past 30 days) cigarette smoking among US adults aged ≥ 18 years during 2002–2016.

Methods Nine indicators associated with social disadvantage were analysed from the 2002 to 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: education, annual family income, sex, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, serious psychological distress, health insurance, public assistance, and employment status. Using descriptive and multivariable analyses, we measured trends in smoking overall and within the assessed variables. We also evaluated effect of interactions on disparities and estimated the excess number of smokers attributable to disparities.

Results During 2002–2016, current cigarette smoking prevalence declined overall (27.5%–20.7%; p trend < 0.01), and among all subgroups except Medicare insurees and American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). Overall inequalities in cigarette smoking grew even wider or remained unchanged for several indicators during the study period. In 2016, comparing groups with the least versus the most social advantage, the single largest disparity in current smoking prevalence was seen by race/ethnicity (prevalence ratio = 5.1, AI/ANs vs Asians). Education differences alone explained 38.0% of the observed racial/ethnic disparity in smoking prevalence. Interactions were also present; compared with the population-averaged prevalence among all AI/AN individuals (34.0%), prevalence was much higher among AI/ANs with <high school diploma (53.0%), unemployed (58.0%), or with serious psychological distress (66.9%). The burden of smoking attributable to race/ethnic disparities in smoking prevalence was an estimated 27.6 million smokers.

Conclusions Overall smoking inequality increased or remained unchanged because of slower declines in smoking prevalence among disadvantaged groups. Targeted interventions among high-risk groups can narrow disparities.

  • disparities
  • socioeconomic status
  • surveillance and monitoring

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