FRIDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Rising cigarette prices and other economic and social factors led to the sharp drop in smoking that occurred among black youth between the 1970s and 1990s, U.S. researchers say.

In the early 1970s, smoking rates among black and white youth were similar and began to decline in both groups around 1976. However, the drop was much sharper among black youth. By the early 1990s, white students were more than four times more likely than black students to report having smoked cigarettes within the previous 30 days.

This study concluded that racial differences in parental attitudes, religious ties, negative health concerns and experiences, worsening poverty, increased food stamp use, and rising cigarette prices are the major reasons for the more rapid decrease and continuing lower rate of smoking among black youth compared to those in other racial/ethnic groups.

"Some have suggested that African American youth substituted other forms of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs for cigarettes," study corresponding author Tyree Oredein, a doctoral student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

"However, there was an overall decline in the use of both licit and illicit drugs among black high school seniors from the mid 1970s through the early 1990s alongside the fall of cigarette use," said Oredein, who is also an adjunct professor of health and nutrition sciences at Montclair State University.

The findings suggest that increases "in cigarette price due to increased federal and state excise taxes have become and continue to be an effective tool in reducing cigarette use, especially [among] African American youth," the researchers noted.

The study was published in the Aug. 18 online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about youth and tobacco.