Ethnic differences in cigarette smoking among adolescents: a comparison of Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem

B Meijer, D Branski, E Kerem
Israel Medical Association Journal: IMAJ 2001, 3 (7): 504-7

BACKGROUND: Prevention of cigarette smoking is an important issue in public health policy. Since most adult smokers began smoking in childhood, understanding behavorial factors associated with smoking initiation would contribute to smoking initiation programs. Health-related behavior may vary between different ethnic groups.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of smoking among Jewish and Arab adolescents in Jerusalem, and whether there are differences in smoking initiation between the two ethnic groups.

METHODS: We carried out a cross-sectional survey of all students in the 6th to 11th grades (age range 11-17 years) of a Jewish school and an Arab school in the Jerusalem area, using an anonymous self-completion questionnaire. A total of 791 questionnaires was analyzed, 479 from the Jewish students and 312 from the Arab students.

RESULTS: The lowest prevalence of smoking was found among Arab female students and the highest among Jewish female students (9% vs. 41%, P < 0.001). The prevalence of smoking among Jewish and Arab males was similar. More Arab female students smoked than their mothers. Peer pressure seemed to be a more important factor among Jewish students.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated the presence of ethnic differences in smoking prevalence and the reasons for smoking among adolescents in Israel. These results suggest the need for specific smoking prevention policies for different ethnic groups.

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