OBJECTIVES: To determine associations among health care access, cigarette smoking, and change in cigarette smoking status over 7 years.
METHODS: A cohort of 4,086 healthy young adults was followed from 1985-1986 through 1992-1993. Participants were recruited from four urban sites balanced on gender, race (African Americans and whites), education (high school or less, and more than high school), and age (18-23 and 24-30). Outcome measures were smoking status at Year 7, as well as 7-year rates of smoking cessation and initiation.
RESULTS: For each of three access barriers reported at Year 7 (lack of health insurance, lack of regular source of medical care, and expense), participants experiencing the barrier had a higher prevalence of smoking, quit smoking less frequently, and started smoking more frequently; e.g., only 15% of participants with health insurance lapses quit smoking over the 7-year period, compared with 26% of those with insurance (P < 0.001). Results were similar for each race/gender stratum, and persisted after adjustment for usual markers of socioeconomic status: education, income, employment, and marital status.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care access was associated with lower prevalence of smoking and beneficial 7-year changes in smoking, independent of socioeconomic status. The possibility that this is a causal relationship has implications in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer and multiple other smoking-related diseases, and deserves further exploration.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/catarina_kiefe/81/