Black adolescents take in far more nicotine with each cigarette they smoke than white youths, and also take longer to get the drug out of their system, according to researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Previous studies have shown that black adults metabolize nicotine differently than white adults; the latest research shows the same is true for teens. Researchers led by Eric Moolchan of NIDA's Teen Tobacco addiction Research Clinic drew their conclusions from a study of 61 white and 30 black adolescent smokers.

They found that both groups exhibited similar measures of nicotine dependence and concentrations of the nicotine metabolite cotinine, even though the black youths smoked significantly fewer cigarettes on a daily basis.

"Because nicotine plays an active role in smoking reinforcement, these variations may influence early onset addiction to tobacco," said NIDA Director Nora Volkow.

"Thus, these findings may constitute a strong warning to black youth to keep from smoking in the first place. They also may explain why certain smoking-cessation therapies work better in some populations than in others, and therefore, which treatments should be offered to which teens."

"An important implication is that black youth may not be offered certain smoking cessation therapies if those treatments are selected largely on the number of cigarettes smoked per day," added Volkow.

"Thus, we need to look at aspects of nicotine dependence other than consumption to guide the selection of appropriate and effective therapies."

The research was published in the January 2006 issue of the journal Ethnicity and Disease

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