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Tobacco Use Among HBCU Students Not as Prevalent, Shows Preliminary Study


Findings from a survey conducted by North Carolina Central University and the Historically Minority Colleges and Universities Consortium show tobacco use is not as prevalent at historically Black colleges and universities as previous studies have indicated.

“These results are just our preliminary findings, which comprise a small portion of a comprehensive study,” says Roderick F. Brown, project director for the On the Ground Cessation project. “Our next step is to administer the survey and acquire data from other participating HBCUs. Our target audiences include HBCUs and the African-American community.”

On the Ground Cessation is a partnership among NCCU, Bennett College for Women and North Carolina A&T State University designed to reduce smoking among college students. The project also is intended to strengthen campus non-smoking policies and work with faculty and local leaders to develop resources to help reduce and prevent tobacco use in surrounding communities.

“The On the Ground Cessation project represents groundbreaking research and programming in the field of tobacco control,” says Al Richmond, project coordinator, North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development. “For the first time, we have research that addresses issues related to tobacco use among students enrolled at HBCUs.”

An 83-question survey was developed that assesses socio-demographic information, attitudes toward tobacco use, history of tobacco use, access to tobacco and tobacco use behavior. Preliminary findings of this study indicate that smoking is not as widely practiced as anticipated and has not become a socially acceptable or encouraged norm among college students attending an HBCU in general and African-American college students in particular.

“Reports of college students that use tobacco ranged from 27 percent to 34 percent; however, our study found that only 13 percent of African-American students are smokers,” says project evaluator Michelle Cotton Laws. “In our report, 86 percent of the students reported that smoking was discouraged among their peers and 45 percent of the students responded that they preferred associating with peers that did not smoke. … Our study found that gender, depression and peer influences are major factors for students determining whether to smoke.”
Cotton Laws also noted there is no statistically significant relationship between gender and reasons for smoking; however, there is a statistically significant relationship between race and reasons for smoking. African-Americans are more likely to smoke for sensation or no reason, whereas Whites and multiracial persons are likely to use smoking as a social tool.

College students comprise the largest group of Americans in the 18-to-24 age range.  Evidence from national data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that college years are a critical period when young adults are significantly influenced to adopt or renounce the use of tobacco and smoking.

“Previously, data collected only targeted the majority population and there has not been much data regarding the minority population,” says Brown. “This is the first extensive study regarding the use of tobacco among college students at HBCUs.”

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