Beginning in the 1970s, US national surveys showed African American youth having a lower prevalence of cigarette smoking than white youth. Yet, during adulthood, African Americans have a smoking prevalence comparable to white adults. Data sources chosen can contribute in different ways to understanding tobacco use behaviors among African American youth and adults; this article is a review of national and/or state-based health surveys to examine their methodology, racial and ethnic classifications, and tobacco-use related measures.
Eleven national and/or state based surveys were selected for review. Eight surveys were multitopic and included questions on tobacco use and three surveys were tobacco specific. Survey methods included telephone (4), household (3), and school (4). Three major characteristics examined for each survey were: (1) survey design and methods, (2) racial and ethnic background classification, and (3) selected tobacco smoking questions. Within these three characteristics, 15 factors considered to be important for examining tobacco use behaviors by African Americans were identified a priori using previously published reviews and studies.
Within survey design and methods, the majority of surveys (a parts per thousand yen7) oversampled African Americans and did not use proxy respondents for tobacco questions. All surveys used Office of Management and Budget standard classification for race/ethnicity classification. The majority of surveys (a parts per thousand yen7) captured five of the seven tobacco-related smoking questions.
Programmatic objectives and/or research questions should guide the selection of data sources for tobacco control programs and researchers examining African American tobacco use behaviors.
This review of 11 national and state tobacco-related surveys shows that these surveys provide much needed estimates of tobacco use behaviors. However, as tobacco programs and researchers seek to examine tobacco use behaviors among African Americans, it is important to consider multiple surveys as each can contribute to informing the tobacco experience in African Americans. Most importantly, programmatic objectives and/or research questions should guide the selection of data sources for tobacco control programs and researchers examining African American tobacco use behaviors.