University Park, Pa. -- Strong traditional values among Black women that discourage smoking may be the reason for noticeably lower smoking rates among African-Americans in the West and Deep South compared to Blacks in other regions of the country.
"Black women outside the urban hubs in the South and West had the lowest overall prevalence rates among all gender and regional groups surveyed," says Dr. Gary King, associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State.
Interestingly enough, the lowest smoking prevalence rates (11 percent) were among Black adults 18-24 years of age -- male and female -- who lived in the non-urban South. Thus, Southern Black women as a whole, regardless of age, were more inclined to avoid smoking than other Blacks nationwide, according to King.
"It may be that these women are less prone to smoking than women of comparable socioeconomic status in other sections of the country because of adherence to strong traditional African-American norms or religious beliefs, community social structure and alternative ways of coping with stress," he notes.
"Our data showed that African-Americans in the Midwest had the highest smoking prevalence rates -- 38.9 percent in the `central city' or urban core and 30.3 percent in suburban or rural areas," says King, a faculty member in the College of Health and Human Development.
King; Anthony P. Polednak, Department of Public Health, Hartford, Conn.; and Robert Bendel of University of Connecticut's Center for Environmental Health, published their research in "Regional Variation in Smoking among African-Americans," in a recent issue of the journal, Preventive Medicine.
The findings in this article were based on figures from the National Health Interview Survey, analyzed the smoking habits of 16,738 African-Americans aged 18-64 over the period 1990-94.