Addressing tobacco-related health disparities


  • All authors have no conflicts of interests.

Eric T. Moolchan, Teen Tobacco Addiction Treatment Research Clinic, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Intramural Research Program, 5500 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA. E-mail:


Aims  The aim of this review is to outline a transdisciplinary research framework for identifying, explaining and intervening to address tobacco-related health disparities (TRHD). We will show the importance of an approach that integrates the human life-cycle (developmental) and tobacco addiction cycle (behavioral) for interventions that address group-specific vulnerabilities.

Methods  The existing empirical knowledge base on tobacco-related health disparities is mapped onto a conceptual framework built around life-cycle and addiction cycle trajectories for disparate population groups.

Findings  Current knowledge about developmental trajectories of tobacco use is based on general population studies with minimal information on group differences. At the national level, early onset of tobacco use is associated with a high level of tobacco dependence, low number of quit attempts, long-term smoking history and tobacco-related health harm. These relationships cannot be assumed for all population groups: African Americans and Asian Americans typically have a later age of tobacco use onset compared to European Americans, yet health consequences of smoking are higher among African Americans but not Asian Americans. Even less is known about group differences in the temporal progression from smoking onset to daily smoking. Determining the time-frame from initial to regular smoking seems crucial for targeted secondary prevention, before the establishment of addictive tobacco use patterns. Group-specific data characterizing the duration from daily tobacco use to a quit attempt or request for cessation treatment are also scant.

Conclusions  A comprehensive, integrated, transdisciplinary framework is needed to guide efforts to understand tobacco-related health disparities and to increase the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions delivered in culturally appropriate and economically practicable ways, while optimizing the balance between demand for and access to services.