Did You Know: Arrest During Emerging Adulthood Can Impact Smoking Behavior of African Americans

A newly published study examined how arrest during emerging adulthood altered smoking behavior during subsequent years and whether there were differential effects by race/ethnicity and gender. Researchers analyzed 15 waves of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997.
Findings included:
  • For both genders, arrested black men and women had the most distinct smoking transitions (both increases and decreases) as compared with their non-arrested counterparts.
  • Among men, particularly black males, arrest in early adulthood was associated with the men transitioning to both increased and decreased smoking.
  • Patterns in smoking transitions for women were less clear, suggesting that women’s smoking may be influenced by factors not in the models.
  • Women had a low probability of starting to smoke or increasing smoking if they were never arrested between 18 and 21 years of age.

The researchers conclude that transitioning into increased smoking offers some support for labeling theory processes. Other findings suggest that arrest may lead to some men reducing or quitting smoking. Early adulthood arrest may serve to “shock the system” and contribute to males altering their prior smoking behavior. Because criminal justice policymakers tend to focus on issues like ex-offender unemployment, public health officials can provide guidance regarding the effect of justice system involvement on smoking, particularly given the adverse health outcomes of using cigarettes.

Source: Hassett-Walker & Shadden (2020). Examining Arrest and Cigarette Smoking in Emerging Adulthood. Tobacco Use Insights, 13: 1179173X20904350.

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