Not Just Cigarettes: A More Comprehensive Look at Marijuana and Tobacco Use Among African American and White Youth and Young Adults
INTRODUCTION: Cigarettes, cigars, and marijuana have generally been studied in isolation yet their use does not occur in isolation. Focus on cigarette smoking may overstate the observation that African American youth and young adults are less likely to smoke any combustible product compared with their white counterparts. Assessing cigarette, cigar, and marijuana use trends may help identify the extent of this difference. METHODS: Data from the 2002-2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (N = 25 541 to N = 28 232) were used to investigate past 30-day cigarette, cigar, and marijuana use trends among African American and white youth (12-17) and young adults (18-25). Logistic regressions assessed trends in combustible tobacco (cigarettes and cigars) and marijuana use, alone and in combination. RESULTS: From 2002-2012, the absolute difference in cigarette smoking prevalence between African American and white youth (9.6%-4.2%) and young adults (19.0%-10.5%) narrowed. Any combustible tobacco/marijuana use was significantly lower among African Americans than whites but, relative to cigarettes, the absolute difference was much smaller among youth (7.2%-2.2%) and young adults (15.8%-5.6%). Among any combustible tobacco/marijuana users, using two or more substances ranged from 31.4% to 40.3% among youth and 29.1% to 39.8% among young adults. CONCLUSION: Any combustible tobacco/marijuana use trends suggest the smoking prevalence difference between African American and white youth and young adults is real, but less pronounced than when assessing cigarette smoking alone. Policies and programs addressing smoking behaviors may benefit from broadening focus to monitor and address cigar and marijuana use as well. IMPLICATIONS: Trends in any use of cigarettes, cigars, and/or marijuana suggest the difference in smoking prevalence between African American and white youth and young adults is real, but less pronounced than when cigarette smoking is assessed alone. In 2012, more than 10% of African American and white youth, more than a third of African American young adults, and nearly half of white young adults reported past 30-day use of cigarette, cigars, and/or marijuana. Public health programs aimed at reducing these behaviors among youth and young adults could be informed by considering detailed, race-specific information regarding tobacco and marijuana use patterns.