Although epidemiologic studies suggest low levels of cigarette use among African American adolescents relative to White U.S. adolescents, it is not known whether this may be due to racial differences in the relative contribution of genes and environment to cigarette use initiation and progression to regular use.
Using data from White (n=2665) and African American (n=809) twins and full siblings sampled in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescents, we fitted age-, sex- and race-specific variance decomposition models to estimate the magnitude of genetic and environmental effects on cigarette use initiation and cigarette use quantity in Whites and African Americans across adolescence and adulthood. We employ a causal-contingent-common pathway model to estimate the amount of variance explained in quantity of cigarettes smoked contingent on cigarette use initiation.
African Americans had lower cigarette use prevalence from adolescence through adulthood, and used cigarettes less heavily than Whites. Race-specific causal-contingent-common pathway models indicate that racial differences in genetic and environmental contributions to cigarette use initiation and cigarette use quantities are not present in adolescence but appear in young adulthood. Additive genetic factors were an important risk factor for cigarette use initiation for White but not African American young adults and adults.
Genetic and environmental contributions for cigarette use are similar by race in adolescence. In adulthood, genes have a stronger influence for cigarette use among White adolescents while the influence of the environment is minimal. For African Americans, both genetic and environmental influences are important in young adulthood and adulthood.