Last lecture in diversity series discusses adolescent smoking

American Indians have the highest smoking rate.
Jiaxi Lu / Graphic Designer

The "Diversity in Action: Bridging Research and Practice" series presented its final lecture of the semester Thursday, with a presentation by ManSoo Yu, assistant professor in the School of Social Work.

Yu spoke about his extensive research on the similarities and differences in adolescent smoking behaviors in different racial and ethnic groups. Yu also presented his findings on the factors that contribute to adolescent smoking.

Yu said he hopes his research will help solve the high levels of nicotine addiction in adolescents of certain ethnic groups, including American Indian, Asian and black people.

“My research goal is to eliminate the health disparities among different segments of the population in terms of gender, age and ethnic and racial groups,” Yu said.

Yu wrote his doctoral dissertation on the alcohol consumption and illegal drug use prevalent in American Indian youth.

“American Indian youth have the highest levels of drug use than any other racial group,” Yu said.

According to Yu, environmental, social and personal factors all contribute to an adolescent’s decision to smoke, and the social conditions of American Indian reservations might be the reason for the high smoking rates among American Indian teens.

“Adolescents living on reservations are more likely to have some family issues and have limited access to services and are more likely to smoke than American Indian adolescents living in urban environments,” Yu said.

School of Social Work professor Judith Davenport said her experience working with American Indian teenagers was one of the reasons she decided to attend the lecture.

“I have an interest and a background in working with American Indians and also with several other ethnic groups and cultures, so I was very much interested in the topic, and I wanted to get some new information of what is out there,” Davenport said.

According to Davenport, high drug use by American Indian teenagers has been a problem for many years.

“I think things are improving from my experiences on working and living on reservations, and things are changing, but it’s clearly still a problem,” Davenport said.

Yu also presented his information on the smoking habits of other ethnic groups. According to Yu, Asian smokers are more likely than non-Asian smokers to have family members who smoke.

Yu also studied the percentages of Caucasian and black smokers and classified them into groups of experimental smokers, occasional smokers and regular smokers.

Yu found 17 percent of Caucasians fall under the experimental smoker category, and 22.8 percent of black people fill the same category.

But 7 percent of Caucasians can be considered occasional smokers, and 5.7 percent of black people occasionally smoke. As for regular smokers, 2 percent of black people fill the category, and 8.4 percent of Caucasians join them.

Yu said individual, social and environmental factors all contribute to an adolescent’s decision to begin smoking.

“A lack of encouragement from family members and friends to stop smoking are barriers that stop someone from quitting,” Yu said.

Yu said he hopes his research will help to decrease high smoking rates among teenagers.

“We need to work together to establish culturally appropriate smoking cessation and prevention efforts through research, blending and practice,” Yu said.

Lecture coordinator Yuan Gao said the purpose of the diversity lecture series was to create a way for MU professors to share research and solve societal problems.

“Our original intention was for graduate students and faculty members to come attend the talks and enlighten their own research in similar fields,” Gao said. “However, I’ve noticed there are a lot of undergraduates who come too, and I think it's great because you can expand the information you learn in the classroom.”

Davenport said she believed the goal of the lectures had been achieved, and she found the presentation beneficial.

“I feel that I’m taking a lot of information with me that I’ll be able to think about and use in the future,” Davenport said.

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