Racial/ethnic variations in alcohol and cigarette use by pregnancy status among 20 to 44-year-old women, NHANES 2001–2018



This study examines alcohol consumption and smoking behaviors by pregnancy status and race/ethnicity in order to inform improved interventions designed to assist women of all races to avoid alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy for their health and to prevent potential fetal exposure.


This retrospective secondary data analysis utilized nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data between 2001 and 2018. Smoking and alcohol use were evaluated by race/ethnicity and pregnancy risk. Sexual behavior, reproductive health, and prescription drug use determined pregnancy risk, categorized as low pregnancy risk, at risk of becoming pregnant, and pregnant. Binary and multinomial multivariable logistic regression were used to examine associations.


The final sample consisted of 10,019 women of which 11.8% were Mexican American, 7.7% other Hispanic, 65.5% white, and 15% black (weighted percentages). White low pregnancy risk and pregnancy risk smoked most frequently in respective pregnancy risk groups (p<0.001). Among pregnant women, smoking prevalence was highest among black women (14.0%, p<0.01). Pregnancy risk women were more likely to smoke and pregnant women were less likely to smoke compared with low pregnancy risk. Low pregnancy risk and pregnancy risk Hispanics had a lower prevalence of binge drinking, but prevalence decreased less among pregnant Hispanics than other racial/ethnic groups. In adjusted analyses, pregnancy risk black women had more than 2 times the odds of combined smoking and alcohol consumption compared with low pregnancy risk black women.


Women who may become pregnant need interventions and improved policy to prevent alcohol use and smoking. Culturally appropriate alcohol and smoking cessation interventions before pregnancy and improved contraception access are needed.

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