Background. Information about the risk of smoking initiation among whites,
African Americans, and Latino Americans has provided an important informati
on base for smoking prevention programs among adolescents from these ethnic
backgrounds. Unfortunately, there is a lack of such information for Asian
Americans, a fast-growing ethnic minority group with much internal diversit
Method. This study used cross-sectional data from 20,482 subjects 12-17 yea
rs of age, randomly sampled in California, to describe and compare the risk
of smoking initiation for adolescents by age among Asian American and othe
r non-Asian ethnic groups, using survival analysis. Computer-aided telephon
e interview techniques were used in data collection.
Result. The risk of early smoking initiation among Asian American adolescen
ts is about a third of that of Caucasians. However, the risk among Asian Am
ericans continues to increase throughout adolescence, while the same risk a
mong Caucasians and African Americans plateaus around 14-15 years of age. S
ignificant differences in the levels and patterns of smoking initiation amo
ng Asian American subgroups were observed, with Chinese Americans showing t
he lowest risk of smoking initiation and Filipino Americans the highest, Ja
panese and Korean Americans being in-between.
Conclusion. Asian American adolescents may be especially at risk of smoking
initiation later in adolescence, even though they are at lower risk early
in adolescence. Smoking prevention programs for Asian Americans should cont
inue throughout adolescence and early adulthood. (C) 1999 American Health F
oundation and Academic Press.