Peer Pressure to Smoke Greater Among White Youth
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - All teenagers are not the same--especially when it comes to attitudes and susceptibility to smoking. According to new research, white adolescents may be more likely to take up the habit because of peer pressure, but Hispanics a
``Most teens smoke because their friends are doing it,'' Dr. Jennifer B. Unger, of the University of Southern California School of Medicine told Reuters Health.
``However, teens from more collectivistic, family-oriented cultures may be less influenced by their friends' behavior, compared with whites,'' she said.
In a study of over 5,000 California 8th graders, Unger and colleagues found that peer pressure was more strongly associated with smoking among the white adolescents than among the other ethnic groups. Yet, despite the greater influence of peers on smoking behavior, white youngsters were not necessarily the most likely to smoke.
About 70% of Hispanics and multiethnic adolescents were susceptible to smoking compared with about 60% of whites and less than 50% of Asian Americans. More Hispanic and multiethnic youth reported smoking in the past 30 days than any other ethnic group, and Pacific Islander teens reported having the highest percentage of friends who smoke. Asian Americans and African Americans were the least likely to have smoked in the month prior to the survey.
The researchers hypothesize that teens in nonwhite ethnic groups may be more likely to smoke or to be open to smoking because of normative peer influences--the feeling that a behavior is the norm for their social group regardless of any pressure to smoke, according to the report in a recent issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
The findings could have implications for programs designed to stop adolescents from picking up the smoking habit, the authors conclude.
``These results support the hypothesis that peer influences on adolescent smoking vary by ethnicity,'' Unger and her team write.
``Our society is becoming more and more multicultural,'' Unger said. ``We can't continue to design our health promotion programs with just US-born whites in mind.''
``We need to consider the cultural values of multiple cultures,'' the researcher added.