Smoking linked to perceived discrimination

March 20, 2012 at 7:07 PM
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ST. LOUIS, March 20 (UPI) -- Poorer members of racial and ethnic minorities who perceive themselves to be targets of discrimination are more likely to be smokers, U.S. researchers say.

"As expected, everyday smokers were more likely than occasional smokers, and occasional smokers were, in turn, more likely than non-smokers, to report being the target of perceived discrimination in both healthcare settings and the workplace," Jason Q. Purnell, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement.

"Smokers were more likely than non-smokers to report emotional and physical symptoms in response to perceived discrimination, although occasional smokers were more likely than everyday smokers to report both emotional and physical symptoms."

Purnell and colleagues arrived at their findings after analyzing a multistate, multiethnic study of more than 85,000 individuals by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Purnell used data from 2004 to 2008 from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Beginning in 2002, an optional module was added and adopted by several states in an attempt to capture data on perceived racial discrimination and its effects in a population-based sample.

Their study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that regardless of race or ethnicity, the odds of current smoking were higher among individuals who perceived that they were treated differently because of their race, though racial and ethnic minority groups were more likely to report discrimination.

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