Numerous studies in the past have indicated that Native Americans smoke more cigarettes daily than whites. These studies have caused a stereotype that Native Americans are prone to smoking than other ethnic groups in America.
However, a recent study by researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Tucson found the opposite. After adjusting for differences in the income and education levels between Native Americans and whites, the latter group (whites) actually was likely to smoke more cigarettes daily, consume larger numbers of cigarettes per month and be nicotine dependent.
Whites More Likely to Smoke Daily and Be Nicotine Dependent
After the adjustments, 15.3 percent of whites smoke cigarettes daily compared to 13.0 percent for Native Americans. In addition, 13.6 percent of whites consumed more than 300 cigarettes in the past month compared to 9.9 percent of Native Americans. Also, 10.3 percent of whites were nicotine dependent, compare to 7.1 percent of Native Americans.
The study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence (DAD).
The researchers looked at a survey (called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 160,000 whites from 2013 through 2017. The survey was administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Income and education level are strongly associated with cigarette use. Native Americans have the highest poverty rate of all major ethnic groups in the United States. Most studies do not adjust for income and education, thus the reported cigarette use by Native Americans have been skewed in these studies.
However, one tragic fact is that Native Americans are dying from smoking at a higher rate than whites. This is true even when income and education level are considered.
The researchers also disproved that Native Americans used alcohol more than whites. Their study from 2016 showed that alcohol use among Native Americans was comparable to or less than that of whites.
“Beliefs such as Native Americans being distinctly prone to cigarette use are widespread but rarely tested,” said lead author James K. Cunningham.
“The consequences of substance misuse are too serious to allow for myths and misinformation,” he said.