Why does smoking prevalence tend to be higher in marginalized communities?

The California Smoking Study is a three year project funded by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program to investigate African American young adults’ perceptions of tobacco control strategies that attempt to make smoking socially unacceptable. While research suggests that these types of tobacco control strategies are effective at the population-level, less attention has been paid to their influence on marginalized populations who continue to have relatively high rates of smoking. Persistently high rates of smoking among marginalized groups suggest that these strategies do not affect everyone equally. Our research team is currently conducting focus groups and face-to-face interviews with African American young adults to explore this issue. We are particularly interested in the extent to which previous experiences with racial and ethnic discrimination shape how African American young adults perceive public health policies that intentionally stigmatize tobacco use.


The respondents’ voices in these excerpts from our ongoing interviews with young African American adults have been digitally altered.
(Please note that these individual voices do not necessarily represent themes that have emerged across the interviews. Results from this project will be presented following analysis in 2016.)

06/22/2015 Stereotypes and smoking (Interview with female smoker)

A young woman describes “the police brutality effect” (Interview with female smoker)

Young female focus group participant

Interview with a young non-smoker who identifies as genderqueer

Interview with a young male non-smoker

    • "I love weed...I mean, cigarettes and weed are kinda compatible if you smoke both of ‘em. Because once you smoke some weed, you’re gonna smoke a cigarette."
    • “They would rather we smoke tobacco and kill ourselves, because they get money from it.”
    • “Hey, y’all got to understand – y’all prolly scared of us… we scared of y’all too!”

Research Team

Tamar Antin, Principal Investigator
Sharon Lipperman-Kreda, Co-Investigator
Rachelle Annechino, Project and Information Systems Manager
Phoenix Jackson, Lead Interviewer
Juliet Lee, Senior Advisor

This project is housed in the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation



This research was supported by funds from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) of the University of California, grant number 22RT-0093. The content provided here is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of TRDRP.