Ethnic differences in patterns and correlates of age of initiation in a population of Air Force recruits


Early age of initiation is a significant risk factor for long-term dependent smoking and may also relate to other unhealthy behaviors. The current study assessed age of initiation in relationship to smoking dependence and motivation to quit, physical activity, dietary intake, body mass index (BMI), attitude toward illegal drug use, binge drinking, seat belt use, and smoking status at follow-up. Subjects were 7995 Air Force recruits who reported smoking regularly up to Basic Military Training. Euro-Americans initiated smoking more than a year earlier on average (15.5 years) than did African-Americans (16.8 years), with Hispanic-Americans (16.0 years) between these two groups. No gender differences were found for age of initiation for any ethnic group. Early age of initiation in Euro-Americans was associated with greater dependence on tobacco, reduced motivation to quit, less likelihood of quitting in the next 12 months, and a number of other health risk factors including lower self-reported physical activity, greater intake of high-fat foods, more favorable attitudes toward illegal drugs, increased likelihood of binge drinking, and less reported use of seat belts. Relationships between early age of initiation and other unhealthy behaviors were less consistent for African-Americans and for neither African-Americans nor Hispanics did age of initiation predict smoking status at 1-year follow-up. © 2000 Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

Publication Title

Nicotine and Tobacco Research