Study Finds Smoking Rates Are Impacted by the Perception of Racial Discrimination

Jason W. Purnell, assistant professor in the Health Communication Research Laboratory of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, was the lead author of a study on the impact of racial discrimination on cigarette smoking behavior. The research found that people of all races who perceived they were victims of discrimination were more likely to smoke cigarettes.

Purnell says the study highlights a potentially high-risk group of individuals who report feeling unfairly treated because of their race and who may be smoking as a means of coping with the psychological distress associated with discrimination. “Identifying these individuals for targeted smoking cessation interventions may improve cessation rates,” he says.

The study, “Perceived Discrimination, Psychological Distress, and Current Smoking Status: Results From the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Reactions to Race Module, 2004–2008,” was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The article can be accessed here.

Dr. Purnell is a graduate of Harvard University. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Ohio State University. He later earned a master of public health degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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