Age of initiation of cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco use among western Alaska Native people: Secondary analysis of the WATCH study

Christi A. Patten, Kathryn R. Koller, Christie A. Flanagan, Gretchen E. Day, Jason G. Umans, Melissa A. Austin, Scarlett E. Hopkins, Bert Boyer

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Objective: This study examined self-reported age of tobacco initiation (cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco [ST]use)and explored potential sex and generational group influences on tobacco use onset among Alaska Native (AN)adult ever tobacco users. Methods: Secondary analysis of consolidated data from the Western Alaska Tribal Collaborative for Health (WATCH)study comprised 2800 AN adult ever tobacco users (1490 women, 1310 men; mean age = 39.2 years)from two rural western Alaska regions. ST use data were limited to one region. Logistic regression was used to examine potential sex and generational group (age 18–29, 30–49, ≥50)effects on initiation at ≤13 years of age. Results: Thirty-seven percent of the sample reported using any tobacco product by age 13 years. Initiation of any ST use by age 13 was greater than for cigarette smoking (52.7% vs. 18.2%), and women were more likely than men to report initiation of any ST use at ≤13 years (52.6% vs. 38.4%). Nearly one-third of ever smokers (31%)initiated in young adulthood (ages 18–29). For ST use, logistic regression analyses revealed significant sex differences (women more likely to initiate by 13 years of age than men)and generational group effects with younger and middle age groups more likely to report initiation ≤13 years compared to the eldest participants. For smoking, no sex differences were observed but the youngest generational group was more likely to report initiation by age 13 compared to the eldest group. Conclusions: Earlier age of tobacco initiation is found among younger generations of AN people. Findings highlight the need to focus prevention efforts on initiation of smoking in young adulthood and uptake of ST use among girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100143
JournalAddictive Behaviors Reports
StatePublished - Jun 2019



  • Adolescents
  • Alaska Native
  • Initiation
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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