Surveys of cigarette smoking among Hispanics in the Southwest have shown a pattern of smoking distinct from that of non-Hispanic whites, but determinants of smoking by Hispanics remain inadequately characterized. We have assessed household income, education, and language preference as predictors of cigarette smoking in 1072 Hispanic adults residing in a community in New Mexico. Cigarette smoking status (never, former, or current smoker) varied strongly with educational attainment, showing the anticipated gradient of increasing smoking as level of education declined. In contrast, cigarette smoking status did not vary in a consistent pattern with reported language preference. A composite measure of socioeconomic status, combining education and household income, predicted continued smoking among ever smokers, whereas language preference had no effect. In males, the age at which subjects started to smoke increased significantly with increasing education; a similar trend in females did not reach statistical significance. Determinants of numbers of cigarettes smoked daily were not identified. The findings suggest that, as in other U.S. populations, Hispanics in the Southwest with lower education and less income should be targeted for smoking prevention and cessation.

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